Numerous research studies and media exposés have provided information about the often-aggressive medical debt collection industry, and a recent report by the trade industry blog Modern Healthcare reveals new details about the often convoluted nature of medical billing that sometimes leaves patients facing lawsuits, garnishments or levies. This report relays a surprisingly common practice of medical debt collectors that has plagued thousands of people around the country and led countless debt-ridden folks to seek bankruptcy protection: the selling of medical debt to companies that file lawsuits en masse in an attempt to turn a profit off the debt.
As we've previously discussed, the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in America isn't, as some people think, reckless or frivolous spending, but is in fact medical bills. This has been particularly true in recent years as the struggling economy has put many people out of work or only one or two paychecks away from financial ruin. Add in skyrocketing healthcare costs (that have increased much faster than the cost of living or the rate of inflation), and a single unexpected illness or injury - or treatment for a chronic or terminal condition - and you have a recipe for unmanageable debt, missed payments, creditor harassment, collection lawsuits and the need for extreme remedies.
Understanding your rights and options
If you are unlucky enough to face medical debt collection, you certainly aren't alone. If you are uninsured, you may qualify for charitable assistance directly from the medical provider. In fact, not-for-profit facilities are required to offer this assistance to low-income patients in order to keep their tax-exempt status. This could be the case even if your bill has already gone into collection. There are often administrative issues behind the scenes wherein not-for-profit facilities outsource the running of certain departments to for-profit providers, but that shouldn't stop you from getting the care you need.
Should your efforts to work with the provider fail, and you are facing other unmanageable debt, a bankruptcy filing might be your best bet. Filing for bankruptcy puts an immediate stop to collection actions of all types through a process known as an "automatic stay" and will give you the fresh financial start you need. For more information about bankruptcy, and to learn if it's right for you, contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney in your area today.