Medical debt is one of the leading contributors to bankruptcy filings. Healthcare options for many, especially the self-employed or small business employee are sparse, and their coverage for treatment can be severely lacking. For cancer patients, the costs of healthcare can be astronomical. Medical bills for cancer patients exceeds the cost of doctor’s visits and spread to many “hidden costs” such as the cost for treatments, medications, transportation and even the cost for someone to care for the patient when family cannot provide this care. Additionally, cancer patients may have to quit their job during the treatment process, leading to more of a financial burden. When medical bills begin to pile up, many people are turning to bankruptcy to help alleviate their financial troubles.
The Burden Of Debt Is Rising
A recent study reveals that as survival rates increase for patients, so do the rates of bankruptcy filings by such patients. The study compared federal bankruptcy court records to cancer registry data from nearly 232,000 adult cancer cases in western Washington during a 14-year period. Bankruptcy rates among cancer survivors were found to have doubled one year after diagnosis, compared to the general cancer-free population. The study showed that it took only two and half years until the average cancer survivor filed for bankruptcy. The study also reviewed the influence the different types of healthcare coverage had on the bankruptcy rates; demonstrating that older patients, those who are typically covered by Medicare, were at a lower risk for bankruptcy than younger counterparts often covered by other types of healthcare providers. Taking into account the current economy, it was determined that cancer patients suffer the effects of job loss and face much higher out-of-pocket costs than the general population.
It is estimated that nearly $264 billion is spent on the cost for cancer in 2010, only thought to increase each year. With so many factors contributing to the increased burden of debt for cancer patients and survivors, it may seem like there is no solution to the increasing costs of cancer treatment. Of course, there is no cure for the burden of debilitating debt, but bankruptcy does provide some relief to those who are experiencing such a monumental financial hardship. Medical debt is a type of unsecured debt that can be eliminated through bankruptcy. Most people experiencing this type of extended financial hardship, along with the load of medical debt, would qualify for bankruptcy protection.