• Obamacare May Reduce Some Large Medical Bills, But Not Everybody Can Be Protected

    A Harvard study published in 2005 found that nearly two-thirds of bankruptcies were linked to illnesses and medical bills . “The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds,” President Obama told a March 2009 summit that marked the starting point for the Patient Care and Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare. “By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes.”

    The US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the health reform bill has given many families hope that they will not find themselves going bankrupt because of medical bills. However, a Salt Lake Tribune story published on October 22, 2012, noted that “the pioneering reform law in Massachusetts upon which federal reform was built may have kept debt in check, but it hasn’t solved it.” The Tribune reported that two surveys have shown no significant change in the percentage of residents struggling with medical debt.

    Mark Rukavina, a former consumer advocate and founder of a hospital advisory group, Community Health Advisors in Massachusetts, told the Tribune that medical debt is a problem that affects everyone but the extremely wealthy, and it is a matter of bad luck for the people who incur it. “Health reform will probably succeed at reducing many of the large bills,” Rukavina told the Tribune. “But there will still be out-of-pocket costs that eat into people’s budgets.”

    Mark Rieger, a vice president at Gateway EDI, a St. Louis-based company that sells software to help doctors better manage their bills, told the Tribune that it used to be that no more than 9 to 10 percent of a physician’s income came directly from patients. In some parts of the country, that figure is now close to 20 to 30 percent. However, Rieger told the tribune that health care providers “are only about 50 to 60 percent successful on collecting on patient responsibility.” This has led to more clinics and hospitals becoming “less tolerant of past-due balances.”

    Many ACA provisions will not go into effect until 2014, but you should take action now if your family is struggling because of medical expenses. If you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy , it is possible to wipe out your medical bills in a matter of months. If you enter a Chapter 13 repayment plan, you may be able to have your medical debt discharged without having to pay the full amount. If you want to know which option would work best for you, contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or complete the form on this page to see how our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers can help.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • Nearly One in Five Households Carrying Student Loan Debt

    This CBS News video discusses the increasing number of Americans that are struggling with student loan debt. The Chicago Tribune reported on September 27, 2012, that a Pew Research Center analysis of government data found nearly one in five of households are burdened by school loans. According to the Tribune, the 19 percent of households affected by school loan debt in 2010 is more than double the share from two decades ago, when 9 percent of households in 1989 owed money for education.

    Furthermore, the Tribune also noted that student loan payments are equal to nearly a quarter of the income for individuals with incomes in the lowest fifth nationwide. The Tribune reported that young people and poorer Americans are especially hard hit, as four in 10 households headed by someone younger than age 35 have student loan debt. Overall, the Tribune said student loans now make up 5 percent of all debts, whereas they comprised 3 percent just five years ago.

    Barring an extreme hardship, student loan debt is very rarely discharged when an individual files Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy could allow you to discharge other certain debts, such as credit card or medical bills. Freeing up this additional income could not only help you make your student loan payments, but it may also help you pay off the education balance sooner. Contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or complete the form on this page to let our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers see how we can help.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

  • High Costs of Getting Well Leaves Millions Worried Sick About Medical Bills

    As we mentioned on Wednesday, staggering health care costs continue to be one of the leading reasons that many Americans file bankruptcy. Because anybody can get sick, medical bills affect people all of age groups.

    The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch reported on September 17, 2012, that a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that health care costs in the last five years of an individual’s life can be much bigger than most people anticipate. The report said average out-of-pocket expenditures for Medicare beneficiaries in the five years prior to death were $38,688 for individuals and $51,030 for couples in which one spouse dies.  Additionally, MarketWatch also reported that more than three-quarters of households spent at least $10,000 in that five-year period, and 11 percent of single and 9 percent of married households spent more than $100,000.

    Just as medical costs affect people in the later years of life, they also create a substantial burden for families who are bringing new ones into the world. Reuters reported on September 18, 2012, that out-of-pocket expenses for labor and delivery increased 74 percent between 2004 and 2009. Data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey showed mothers paid an average $1,148 out of pocket in 2009 after averaging $661 five years prior.

    Reuters reported that 26-year-old Lindsay Durrenberger said her Blue Cross Blue Shield plan covered most of her $8,000 in birthing expenses, but “she was surprised that opting for an epidural meant she paid $550 for the out-of-pocket cost to the anesthesiologist.” She was also billed $200 for two pediatrician visits while in the hospital and $400 for her son’s circumcision. Durrenberger told Reuters that she expects to pay $1349 out-of-pocket for the birth.

    “At this point, it’s kind of nerve-wracking,” Durrenberger told Reuters. “I’m still waiting for the bomb to drop.”

    If your family is struggling to pay medical bills, you may be able to eliminate that debt by filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy or you could significantly reduce the amount you owe by filing Chapter 13 . If you want to know what options you have, complete the form on this page to have our Chicago bankruptcy attorneys review your case or take action now by contacting our firm at (866) 930-7482.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers

  • Medical Bills Force US Congressman to Sell DC House

    We have been recently writing about the impact that foreclosures have had on Chicagoland families, but the Washington Post reported on September 19, 2012, that Illinois’ US Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. is selling his Washington DC home for another reason: medical bills .

    “Like millions of Americans, Congressman Jackson and Mrs. Jackson are grappling with soaring healthcare costs and are selling their residence to help defray costs of their obligations,” Jackson aide Rick Bryant said in a statement, according to the Post. “The Congressman would like to personally thank everyone who has offered prayers on behalf of his family.”

    The Post reported that the 47-year-old congressman has not been seen on Capitol Hill since returning home after seeking treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for depression. The news website Politico reported that while “reports of the home sale fueled speculation about his political future, his office has insisted that he plans on staying in office and will run for re-election in November.”

    As we have noted before, substantial debt from medical bills remains one of the most common reasons that people file bankruptcy. We will further discuss how nearly 44 million Americans are struggling with health care expenses in our next blog post, but you should know that you may be able to reduce your medical bills by filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy or eliminate them by filing Chapter 7 . Our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers can help you get started when you contact our firm at (866) 930-7482 or fill out the form located on this page.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

  • Five Tips to Help Avoid High Medical Bills

    In our post on Monday, we discussed a recent Chicago Tribune article that highlighted how many individuals often become overwhelmed with bills for medical services that they did not really need. Just one day before the Tribune published that article, the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch website published a piece entitled, ‘5 cures for high medical bills.” In the article, experts recommended:

    1. Bargain down the price – “It’s much less time consuming and aggravating if you can make a deal to pay half of it in cash,” Matthew Tassey, principal of Scribner Insurance and former chairman of the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education, told MarketWatch. “You need an ally on the inside,” Tassey says. “If you can help that doctor be your advocate, you have a much, much higher success rate at getting the bill reduced.”
    2. Review your bill – Insurance experts told MarketWatch that because the medical billing system has become increasingly automated, billing mistakes are common.
    3. Appeal – MarketWatch noted that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires an external appeals process through an independent review body to allow consumers to appeal their insurance companies’ reimbursement decisions. However, Families USA deputy director of health policy Cheryl Fish-Parcham told MarketWatch, “You definitely need medical evidence to be successful.”
    4. Get help negotiating – The ACA also funded grants that allow many states to offer “so-called consumer assistance programs,” which the Department of Health and Human Services says helped recover more than $18 million in their first year.
    5. Shop around – While MarketWatch reported that experts advise staying in network whenever possible, they also added that when time permits, it is worth asking your doctor how much a procedure will cost and if it would be cheaper to get it elsewhere.

    Are you overwhelmed with medical bills? You may be able to get much needed relief by filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Contact our firm today at (866) 930-7482 or use the form on this page to let our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers review your case.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorneys

  • With Medical Bills, ‘Patients Who Can Least Afford It Often Get The Highest Bills’

    As a Chicago Tribune story noted on August 29, 2012, a 2005 Harvard study found medical bills are the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in the United States. However, the Tribune also pointed out that about 30 percent of the $2.6 trillion spent each year on health costs does not actually help patients. Steven Weinberger, CEO and executive vice president of the American College of Physicians, told the Tribune that in some cases, it actually hurts them.

    “The lack of transparency about prices within the medical system is staggering,” Weinberger told the Tribune. “There is a cloud of secrecy over the whole system, and the patients who can least afford it often get the highest bills.”

    One person the article cited as an example of this was recent medical school graduate Andrew Levy. He suffered a torn cartilage in his knee before going to medical school, and told the Tribune that his doctor ordered an MRI. Because he had a $3,000 deductible on his health insurance, it would have cost Levy between $700 and $2,500 depending on the facility.

    However, he learned that he really did not need the test after all. “This was nuts to pay $700 out of my pocket for a test I didn’t need,” Levy told the Tribune. “And I keep this in mind, that this is what my patients are going through.”

    Medical bills are indeed a common reason for many individuals to file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy , and we will offer some other options in our next post that can help your family deal with high medical bills. If you need help now, use the form located on this page to have our Chicago bankruptcy lawyers review your case or contact our firm today at (866) 930-7482 to schedule a free consultation.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyers