Cancer diagnoses and medical debt

A cancer diagnosis could increase the likelihood that a Maryland patient might have to file for bankruptcy. In fact, people who get cancer file for bankruptcy at a rate that is more than twice as high as those without the disease. Even patients who have insurance face out-of-pocket payments as high as $12,000 for a single medication. However, there are ways to mitigate the financial impact.

First, a patient must create a budget. This should include a list of all potential costs, including lab testing, prescription medications, in-home care and lost pay. Medical providers are increasingly required to be more transparent about their costs, and hospitals are required to post price lists so people can compare costs. The hospital may also have a social worker or another professional who can help with creating a budget. Those who have health insurance should make sure they thoroughly understand their benefits and what copays are necessary.

Some patients may want to consider taking out a loan to cover expenses. While medical debt might not count against a credit score, this can change if a collection agency buys the debt. Medical providers may also offer a payment plan and agree to negotiate costs. Above all, people should not simply ignore the debt.

Dealing with debt and the possibility of bankruptcy can feel overwhelming on top of a diagnosis with a serious illness. However, in some cases, filing for bankruptcy may actually ease some of the stress and provide a fresh start. An attorney can explain how Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows a filer to reorganize debts into a payment plan. Filing for bankruptcy puts a halt to all creditor actions, including foreclosure.