During the recent downturn in the American economy, the United States Bankruptcy Courts saw a record number of bankruptcy cases filed for several years in a row. Although the economy appears to be moving in a positive direction once again, millions of debtors are still feeling the impact of the recession. An individual may turn to bankruptcy for a variety of reasons; however, one common cause is mounting medical bills. Whether your medical bills are the cause of your bankruptcy or are just a small portion of your overall debts, you may be concerned about how your doctor will respond if your medical bills are included in the bankruptcy. Specifically, many debtors ask “If I include my doctor’s bills in my bankruptcy, will my doctor refuse to see me in the future?”
The simple answer is that when you file a bankruptcy case you are required to include all of your creditors and all of your assets. However, just because you list your doctor on your bankruptcy paperwork, does not prohibit you from agreeing to pay the debt that you owe that doctor. If you discharge the rest of your creditors, you will possibly have more money to repay your doctor. The doctor may choose not to treat you in the future. However, I have never seen that happen. Most doctors realize that when a patient files a bankruptcy case, that patient has been through something financially devastating and agrees to work with the patient with the outstanding bills. If you have insurance, the only amount included in your bankruptcy is the co-pay. Your bankruptcy filing does not discharge your insurance company (or Medicaid or Medicare) to pay their portion of your medical bills. If your bill is very large and your doctor decides not to continue to treat you after your bankruptcy filing, nothing prohibits you from discharging your debts to that medical provider and then beginning anew with another medical provider. Chances are, if you could not pay your doctor before you filed your bankruptcy case, the doctor could have refused treatment just because of the non-payment of the medical bill in question. Remember, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case discharges medical bills but never prevents you from paying any bill (including a medical bill) incurred before the bankruptcy case was filed. You can pay that bill either after the case is filed or even after the Chapter 7 discharge is received.
Also, no hospital, emergency room, or ambulance service can ever refuse to treat you because you have an outstanding, unpaid, or discharged medical bill. Think about it for a minute. Have you ever been to an emergency room? Do you think everyone in that ER waiting room has paid all of his or her bills, including all of their medical bills? Emergency treatment is never refused in America due to unpaid medical bills.
If you have a medical issue and are considering a bankruptcy filing, please come see Erin B. Shank for a free consultation so that she can help you with these issues. She offers a free initial consultation and is here to help you through this difficult time.