Medical bills have been a leading cause for bankruptcy cases for a long time. Over half of most people’s unpaid debt comes from medical bills. But in some parts of the country, hospitals are all but forcing bankruptcies with aggressive debt collection practices that leave former patients in dire straits.
Many hospitals have generous financial assistance and charity programs. Some have very stingy ones. The latter are pursuing liens on homes or lawsuits resulting in garnished wages.
It’s hard to know which type of hospital you’ll be dealing with when seeking treatment, especially when you’re in dire need of emergency care. According to a recent report:
“Industry standards are few and vague. The American Hospital Association says its members follow Internal Revenue Service guidelines, which merely require hospitals to have a financial assistance policy and to make ‘reasonable efforts’ to determine whether a patient qualifies for help before initiating collections.” –NBC New York
Many of the individuals who are getting plowed under by medical debt had insurance at the time of their treatment. But that insurance sometimes comes with high deductibles, denies claims, or is simply insufficient to deal with the high costs of obtaining treatment. And if a doctor that’s treating you in the middle of an emergency happens to be out-of-network you can end up with an even higher price tag by the time your treatment is complete.
Medical bills must be in collections for over 180 days before they make it onto your credit report, and current scoring models tend to give them less weight than other kinds of debts and bills. But these relief measures don’t help someone who owes over $200,000 for an intensive surgery. There’s just no way most people are ever going to be able to come up with, or pay, that kind of money.
In addition, medical debt collectors are about as ruthless and nasty as any other kind of debt collector. They harangue you by phone, email, and text message. Some of them stalk social media profiles, and even send “friend” or “connection” requests in the hopes of harassing you about your debt over messaging services.
These are the types of situations bankruptcy was made for. Often, bankruptcy is going to be the best answer to over-aggressive medical debt collectors who heartlessly go after patient’s homes and wages.
You don’t have to drown in medical debt. Contact Sadek & Cooper for a free consultation today.