Trillions of dollars are spent each year for healthcare in the United States. In fact, US healthcare spending relative to GDP is about 50 percent more than many countries, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, many US citizens are saddled with thousands of dollars in medical bills that they cannot pay.
Recently on our bankruptcy forum a user asked, “I have a chronic health condition and no healthcare insurance. I have thousands of dollars of medical bills that I cannot pay. What are my options if a hospital is suing me for repayment?”
Steps to eliminate medical bills
If you have medical bills that you cannot pay there are several steps you need to take immediately. Do not ignore the problem.
Contact the doctors and hospitals about the medical bills
Many patients simply collect all the medical bills they cannot pay and ignore them. This is not the solution. First, open every bill and ensure the bill is correct. If you have an issue with any item, contact the hospital and dispute the bill.
If the bill is correct but you cannot pay it, you can discuss whether you can establish a payment plan. Many hospitals and doctors will be satisfied as long as you are sending them a payment each month and making an attempt to repay the bill.
If they will not allow you to make monthly payment, however, you will begin to receive aggressive collection calls, and eventually, they may even file a lawsuit against you.
Lawsuit filed for medical bills what can I do?
If they have filed a lawsuit for the medical bills you must do the following:
- Respond to the notice.
Failing to respond to the lawsuit allows the court to enter a default judgment against you which can allow a variety of collection options (many of which vary by state). The collector may also be able to add on additional costs such as the attorney’s fees, court costs, or interest to the balance.
It is also important to challenge the lawsuit by forcing the collector to prove their standing to sue in their own name, proving what you owe with the original signed agreement, and proving that the lawsuit was filed within the statute of limitations. In some cases you may also be able to argue that they violated the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act.
If you do not win in court, the court will issue a judgment against you allowing the debtor to use wage garnishments, bank account levies, or property liens against you until they can collect the money owed. Keep in mind; some states limit the type of collection actions which can be used by certain creditors.
If you have little money, no job, and no assets there is little a creditor can do.
Filing bankruptcy for medical bills
Depending on the amount of debt and your ability to repay it, you also can consider filing bankruptcy. If you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy you may be able to discharge many types of unsecured debt, including hospital bills.
Chapter 7 may, however, allow for the liquidation of some of your assets and will substantially lower your credit score.
Latest posts by Beth (see all)
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy how to avoid filing a second time? - April 24, 2017
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy how do they determine if I can file? - April 19, 2017
- Receiving Supplemental Security Income can I file for bankruptcy? - April 12, 2017