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Grappling With Medical Bills, Contemplating Chapter 7

September 13, 2012

Medical debts are one of the top reasons that people end up filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. hospitalbed.jpg

Los Angeles Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyer Vincent Howard of HOWARD LAW firmly believes that going broke shouldn't be a side effect of falling ill. It's possible that some of the health care reforms enacted in the Affordable Care Act may help alleviate some of these issues, but it isn't likely to abate all of them.

Bankruptcy is often the only recourse patients have after undergoing intensive treatment for serious illness or injuries. Just to give you an example of the cost of certain procedures, take a look at the Healthcare Blue Book. Let's look at some actual costs:

  • $21,600 - cost for a single, in-patient leukemia surgery;
  • $12,000 - cost for major head or neck surgery;
  • $25,000 - cost for colon surgery;
  • $11,300 - cost for appendectomy;
  • $21,000 - cost for gastric bypass surgery;
  • $27,000 - cost for lung surgery;
  • $9,000 - cost for C-section.

These are just a few procedures, and they don't factor in location (and California tends to have an overall higher cost of living than the rest of the country, so you could likely expect to pay more than this for any one of these procedures).

If you have a chronic ailment, these expenses don't take long to add up. If you have insurance, you might only have to pay a portion of this - but that could still end up costing you a fortune.

If you are trying to avoid bankruptcy, our attorneys can still help you in negotiating a debt settlement agreement. This can become necessary if you have an especially high bill that you will never be able to afford. In these circumstances, you need our help.

For slightly more manageable medical bills, you may consider trying the following:

1. Try to bargain it down. Explain to the doctor or billing representative that you are unable to afford the full payment. From their perspective, it may actually be favorable to them to accept a partial payment rather than no payment or a long, drawn-out dispute for payment. If you are able, make a deal to pay a portion of it in a lump sum right away, and then work out a plan to pay back a reduced amount.

2. Make sure you carefully scrutinize your bill. A lot of times, the processes for billing are automated. What this means is that there is a good chance there may be some mistakes on your bill and you have been overcharged or charged for procedures you either didn't have or didn't need. (It's illegal for a health care provider to do this on purpose, but usually, it's the result of an automated error.)

3. Appeal. If the insurance company refuses to pay all or part of the bill, that leaves you on the hook. Part of what the Affordable Care Act did was strengthen a patient's ability to appeal their insurance's company's decision by providing them with an outside and unbiased body to review the situation. This is in addition to the internal appeals process that most insurance companies already have in place.

Los Angeles Bankruptcy Attorney Vincent Howard at HOWARD LAW can help. You can reach us toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or send us a message online.

Additional Resources:
5 cures for high medical bills, Aug. 28, 2012, By Jen Wieczner, Market Watch, The Wall Street Journal

More Blog Entries:
Payday Loan Traps Lead to Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Aug. 1, 2012, Los Angeles Bankruptcy Lawyer Blog