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When medical bills strike, consider Chapter 7 bankruptcy


No one in Louisville relishes the thought of having to go to the hospital, but when a serious illness or injury strikes, a person might find himself or herself rushed to the emergency room for immediate medical treatment. We are fortunate that we have doctors, nurses and other health care professionals working around the clock to help those in need of medical help. However, the expenses associated with a trip to the emergency room add up, and even if a person has health insurance, and has gone to a hospital that is in-network, he or she could still be subject to a surprise medical bill later on down the road.

How can this happen? Well, even if a healthcare facility is in-network and covered by the person's insurance, the actual doctor who treated the person may be out-of-network. This could mean a big bill for the treatment that doctor provided.

In fact, according Yale researchers, in a study of over 2 million trips to the emergency room nationwide, 22 percent of patients were treated by out-of-network physicians, even though the health care facility was in-network. On average, the out-of-network treatment cost approximately $623, although the highest bill in the study found amounted to over $19,000.

One reason this may happen is that physicians who practice in an emergency room can generally expect to have a consistent stream of patients, meaning they do not necessarily need to be in a network that would allow them to attract more patients. Moreover, according to researchers, emergency room physicians that are out-of-network often earn much more than emergency room physicians that are in-network.

Unfortunately, people do not always realize that they can contest these surprise medical bills. Merely one-quarter of those who receive a surprise medical bill will contest it. However, even if a surprise medical bill is contested, only about half are reduced or forgiven.

So, what can one do if a surprise medical bill is so high that one simply cannot cope with it, while still meeting other expenses? When medical bills mount to the point that they are completely overwhelming, one option a person has is to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing may allow a person to extinguish many of their debts, including medical debt. Therefore, those who find themselves drowning in medical debt may want to consider discussing their situation with a bankruptcy attorney.

Source: The Banner-Press, "Surprise medical bills spell trouble," Trudy Lieberman, Dec. 5, 2016

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