For Americans, health insurance is a hot topic. For decades our government has been trying to put a program in place that will ensure health insurance is at least accessible to everyone. We tend to think that if everyone has health insurance, no one will have to go bankrupt as a result of medical bills. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
“Take a couple who came to us interested in filing bankruptcy,” said Kevin J. Bambury, attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “They had a health insurance policy provided by the husband’s work. He was an in-store customer service representative for one of the large cellphone companies.
“Unfortunately, he developed colon cancer at the young age of 48. By the time it was discovered, the cancer had already reached Stage 4,” Bambury said. “His doctors determined that the surgery he needed was not available in Buffalo and recommended he go to the Cleveland Clinic.”
The client’s health insurer agreed to cover his medical expenses in Cleveland up to what they would have paid for locally for the treatment of his disease. He underwent three surgeries and chemotherapy before he was clear of the cancer. He was unable to work for two years, and during his treatment, expenses for travel and hotel stays were added to the deductibles and co-pays that weren’t covered by the couple’s health insurance.
During the ordeal, he also required expensive drug therapy and medical equipment. His wife took two months unpaid leave from work to care for him after his first surgery, and then subsequently, took off a few days monthly to take him to treatments and a week or two after each of his additional surgeries.
“He is a very lucky man in that he survived a cancer most people die from,” Bambury said. “However, in spite of the fact he had health insurance, he and his wife ended up with $70,000 in unpaid medical expenses by the time he was able to go back to work.”
Ultimately, they filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to enable them to get rid of the debt and get a fresh start on their recovery both health-wise and job-wise. They were able to keep their home and cars so that both could work to restore the financial stability they had before he developed cancer.
“Most individuals in a Chapter 7 do not lose their homes or cars. There are protections in the Bankruptcy law to allow debtors to keep most of their assets,” Bambury said. “The reason we have bankruptcy laws in this country is to protect people like this couple, who fall on hard times through no fault of their own.”