Our Irvine bankruptcy attorneys recently discovered a blog post from December that caught our eye because it discusses a problem that's far too common: medical bill bankruptcy. The post, at the personal finance blog EconoWhiner, tells the story of how one couple was driven into bankruptcy after a series of medical problems combined with insufficient insurance coverage to produce nearly $80,000 in medical bills. Both halves of this couple had chronic pain disorders. The husband is unemployed because of his chronic pain; the wife is self-employed and thus at the mercy of the individual health insurance policy market. Both of their elderly parents live with them.
In short, the husband suffered a series of health problems, including complications from several surgeries as well as his congenital spinal condition. They had to fight with their health insurer to get most of it covered, and in the meantime, they racked up ten thousands of dollars in bills. To pay those bills, they first cashed out their IRA; then, they began using credit cards to cover their expenses. They carefully planned to keep their spending to no more than half of the limit of each card, but that plan failed when one card cut their credit limit to the balance due plus $100; the other cards quickly followed suit. Then all of their credit card companies raised their interest rates to 20%.
That was when they began to seriously consider bankruptcy. Here's what the wife has to say about the first meeting they had with their bankruptcy attorney:
Before we had even been there 10 minutes, part way through her intake interview with us, the lawyer set her pen down, folded her hands on top of her desk, and looked at my husband. "Listen to me, and listen very carefully," she said. "This is not your fault. Let me say that again: This is not your fault."As Orange County bankruptcy lawyers, we like the positive depiction of bankruptcy lawyers -- but even more than that, we like that the lawyer acknowledged that the bankruptcy was not this couple's fault. At Howard Law, we see a lot of clients who have put off facing their financial problems because they feel guilty, ashamed or overwhelmed. Our culture values personal responsibility, but sometimes, there truly is nothing you can do. Unfortunately, delaying doesn't help -- and in some cases, it can hurt because it allows debt to grow and deadlines to pass, limiting our ability to help.
Even today, remembering that moment brings tears to my eyes. I think the last thing we had expected from a lawyer was heartfelt compassion and understanding. We had been fighting so hard to keep our heads above water, to keep up with the medical emergencies and paperwork, that we ourselves had only rarely talked about the guilt we felt over all of this.
Regardless of whether you believe bad decisions led you to consider bankruptcy, it's important to address the problem as soon as you know it's too much to handle alone. Our Fullerton bankruptcy lawyers specialize in helping consumers who are overwhelmed by debt, and we offer free, confidential consultations to potential clients. In addition to helping clients decide whether bankruptcy is right for them, we offer debt settlement without bankruptcy, protection from unfair and illegal debt collection practices and mortgage loan renegotiation. To set up a free, confidential consultation, please contact us as soon as possible.