Bankruptcy and Medical Debt Relief | Portland, OR

Bankruptcy and Medical Debt Relief in Portland, OR

Unlock Financial Freedom By Navigating Medical Debt And Bankruptcy 

Unsettled medical debt poses a significant challenge for many individuals in Oregon, particularly those lacking comprehensive health insurance or facing gaps in coverage. In the face of emergencies or severe health conditions, individuals often find themselves pursued and even taken to court by specialized collection agencies handling medical bills. The dilemma intensifies when substantial medical bills become unmanageable financially, leaving individuals with limited choices—either attempting to negotiate settlements or contemplating the possibility of filing for bankruptcy and medical debt relief. 

Short Summary:

  • Bankruptcy offers a fresh start for debtors to escape overwhelming debt. However, consider consequences like credit score impacts.
  • There is no such thing as a medical bankruptcy. All debts (including medical bills) must be included in the bankruptcy petition.
  • Bankruptcy is often used for hefty medical bills, but consider alternatives first.
  • Medical debt usually comes from unplanned expenses, such as rising insurance costs, lost wages, and out-of-pocket costs.
  • Medical bills are classified as unsecured debts and are more likely to be discharged in bankruptcy.
  • To manage medical debts, act fast. Early negotiations with providers to avoid credit score damage and legal issues.
  • Bankruptcy options available for possible discharge of medical debt are Chapter 7 (liquidation), which discharges debts, while Chapter 13 (repayment plan) keeps assets.
  • Other alternatives to bankruptcy are negotiation, assistance programs, and debt management strategies.

Understanding the consequences of bankruptcy and medical debt relief is essential for individuals dealing with financial hardships due to unforeseen healthcare expenses. While turning to bankruptcy to address medical debts is a practical solution, it is crucial to approach the process with informed guidance for smoother navigation.

What is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy represents a legal status indicating an individual’s or entity’s inability to fulfill outstanding debts to creditors. It constitutes a formal acknowledgment of financial incapacity, seeking protection from creditors and a structured resolution to address the debt situation. The primary objective of bankruptcy is to provide a fresh start for the debtor while ensuring equitable treatment for creditors. It is typically viewed as a last resort, pursued when alternative debt management measures prove unattainable. 

The process involves legal and financial implications and is overseen by a court-appointed trustee. While offering relief from overwhelming debt, bankruptcy does carry consequences, such as potential impacts on credit scores and future credit-seeking capabilities.

What is Medical Debt?

Medical debt emerges from various factors, encompassing rising insurance costs, lost wages, high out-of-pocket expenses like co-pays, expenditures for medical supplies, prescription drugs, and unreimbursed costs for medical treatments and surgeries. 

Medical debt also pertains to individuals accumulating debt from medical expenses, with a significant portion of third-party debt collections constituted by medical bills. This issue particularly impacts individuals with disabilities and lower incomes, rendering minorities more susceptible. While no specific bankruptcy designated for medical debt, it is deemed forgivable and categorized as unsecured debt without collateral. 

Filing for bankruptcy encompasses medical debt and other financial obligations like credit cards and personal loans. Despite medical debt commonly prompting bankruptcy, a crucial consideration is the comprehensive assessment of all debts before determining the optimal approach. Unsecured debts, including medical bills, are more likely to be discharged during bankruptcy proceedings.

What are the Consequences of Unaddressed Medical Debt?

Swiftly addressing medical debts is crucial to mitigating potential repercussions. Early negotiation of payment arrangements may be feasible, which might not be an option once the debt is entrusted to a collection agency. Unmanaged medical bills have the potential to harm your credit score. Legal ramifications, such as lawsuits and garnishment of wages or bank accounts, can quickly ensue when a collection agency becomes involved. These actions can significantly jeopardize your financial stability.

Will Bankruptcy Discharge Medical Debt?

While “medical bankruptcy” is often mentioned in advertisements, it’s essential to understand there is no specific filing dedicated to medical debt. Bankruptcy, as a legal process, does discharge medical debt, but it encompasses various other types of debt as well. For individuals burdened with unexpected medical expenses, filing for bankruptcy for medical debt relief can be a viable option, but it is also advisable to explore alternative solutions first.

Which Chapters Can Help With Medical Debt?

Two primary types of bankruptcy are accessible to most individuals: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Each chapter has distinct qualifying criteria, and both come with advantages and disadvantages when addressing medical debt.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Often referred to as “liquidation” bankruptcy, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the fastest form and is favored by those who meet its criteria. Individuals undergoing Chapter 7 must liquidate certain assets to settle debts before obtaining a discharge

While debts like student loans, taxes, or child support remain non-dischargeable, medical debt is dischargeable, making Chapter 7 popular for those facing overwhelming medical bills. Notably, not all assets need to be sold, as the law allows individuals to retain property on which they make regular payments, such as a car or home, through a “reaffirmation agreement.” Additionally, most people can keep possessions like clothing, furniture, and bank accounts.

Annual income must be below the median for the state and household size to qualify for Chapter 7. If income exceeds the median, qualification is still possible by passing a “means test” evaluating disposable income. Chapter 7 is often a suitable choice for those with medical debt and few assets, as most primary assets are exempt, and debt can be discharged within four months.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Referred to as the “wage earner’s option,” Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires a monthly income adequate to cover expenses and regular payments to creditors. A payment plan is established in collaboration with the bankruptcy court, consolidating debts into a single monthly payment for three to five years. 

With Chapter 13, individuals retain their assets as long as payments are current, and any remaining dischargeable debt is eliminated at the end of the period. Similar to Chapter 7, debts like alimony, child support, or taxes are non-dischargeable, but medical debt is eligible. This option suits those with a steady income and substantial assets, minimizing the risk of asset loss.

What Other Choices Exist Besides Bankruptcy for Managing Medical Debt?

For individuals with a positive credit history, there are various options to handle significant medical bills.

Negotiate with the Medical Provider

Initiate discussions with your medical provider after resolving any issues related to insurance payments. Once all available insurance coverage has been applied, consider talking to the creditor to work out a settlement. If the bill is related to uninsured medical expenses, the medical provider may be willing to waive a portion of the total amount. Many hospitals and healthcare providers routinely offer bill waivers or offer discounts for uninsured patients.

Explore Assistance Programs

Most hospitals have assistance programs that can offer free or reduced-cost hospital care based on your income level if you meet specific eligibility criteria. For instance, in some states, the Hospital Care Assurance Program (HCAP) covers expenses for essential medical services. Additionally, non-profit hospitals with federal tax-exempt status may be obligated to provide more lenient billing terms for financially strained patients. To get more information and apply for relevant coverage, consult with your hospital’s financial aid counselor.

Debt Management Strategy

Consider consulting a credit counseling agency before medical bills become overwhelming. Non-profit credit organizations can help create a repayment plan, potentially offering extended terms with lower interest rates and without additional fees.

Contact Our Oregon Legal Team Today!

Understanding the implications of bankruptcy and medical debt relief is crucial for individuals facing financial challenges due to unforeseen healthcare expenses. While bankruptcy can provide relief by addressing medical debt, navigating the process with informed guidance is necessary. If you find yourself grappling with overwhelming medical debt, seeking legal advice is a crucial step toward financial recovery.

The experienced Oregon bankruptcy lawyers at Michael D. O’Brien & Associates, P.C. are here to assist you. With a commitment to guiding clients through the complexities of bankruptcy, our team offers a free consultation to discuss your unique situation and explore the best options for your financial well-being. Don’t let medical debt control your future. Contact us today to take the first step toward a fresh financial start.

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Whether you're dealing with overwhelming debt, stopping foreclosure or repossession proceedings, or looking for a way to protect your assets, our Portland bankruptcy attorneys are here to help you overcome your financial hurdles!

Please be aware that submission of this no-obligation form does not establish an attorney-client relationship. By filling out the form, you agree to receiving emails from our firm regarding your case evaluation and other helpful resources. 

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