Medical debt continues to be a leading cause of new filings in Ohio

If the number of bankruptcies filed is any indication of an economic recovery, the latest statistics indicate that Ohio is recovering from the recession of 2008. According to the data, the number of personal bankruptcy filing declined in Ohio by five percent to 46,892 filings during 2013.

Along with the good news, the data also had some negative points. Although the number of bankruptcies declined in Ohio, the decline was significantly lower than the national average of 12 percent. In addition, the data indicated that the reason why many Ohioans were filing for bankruptcy had little to do with the economy. Medical bills were cited as one of the leading reasons that pushed Ohio residents into bankruptcy.

Similar trends nationwide

Ohioans are not alone in struggling with medical bills. According to a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, which analyzed bankruptcy data between 2001 and 2007, over 62 percent of bankruptcies were triggered by medical bills, at least in part. The study also indicated that, unsurprisingly, as healthcare costs continue to rise, medical bills became more of a financial burden to Americans. During the six-year period of the study, the number of bankruptcies where medical bills were a cause rose by about 50 percent.

The study also found that having health insurance was not a panacea against bankruptcy. Among the bankruptcies filed because of medical bills, 75 percent of the filers had health insurance. The study found that the despite having insurance, many of these consumers were saddled with out-of-pocket costs for expenses such as prescription drugs and medical equipment, many having outstanding bills well over 10 percent of their pretax income. Others were forced to pay for their medical procedures in full, because the insurance companies cancelled their policies once they required treatment.

Bankruptcy can help

For those struggling with medical debt, bankruptcy can offer a way out. Once bankruptcy is filed, the automatic stay goes into effect, which halts all creditor collection efforts, such as harassing phone calls or collection lawsuit. Regardless of whether the debtor files for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, medical debt is dischargeable, meaning that the debtor is relieved of the obligation to repay the debt. Once bankruptcy has concluded, the debtor emerges free of medical debt with a fresh financial start.

Bankruptcy is not a solution for everyone. For this reason, if you are struggling with medical debt, it is important to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. An attorney can accurately assess whether bankruptcy would be a good fit for your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • I hear bankruptcy is a lot harder to file now. What is the difference?
    • Since Congress passed the new bankruptcy law in 2005, it is necessary to take two bankruptcy counseling courses. The first bankruptcy counseling course must be taken before you can file your bankruptcy petition, and the second bankruptcy counseling course must be taken before the court will issue the discharge order relieving you from your debt. Both bankruptcy counseling courses can be taken on-line for a small fee, and can be done in a few hours.

      There are also stricter requirements on who can get a total discharge of debts under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You must earn under a certain annual income for your area of residence, or you must be able to pass a means test provided for by the bankruptcy law. Under this means test, your income is matched against a formula for average monthly expenses in your area of residence to determine your monthly disposable income. Your debts are compared with your monthly disposable income to determine if you can afford to pay your debts. If you do not pass the means test, you may still get bankruptcy protection through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy where you pay some or all of your debts through a payment plan. While these restrictions limit some people, the bankruptcy attorneys at Bailey & Gunderson have found that the vast majority of people who need the protection of a bankruptcy are still able to take advantage of it.

  • Can I get all debts discharged through Bankruptcy?
    • Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may get a total discharge of your debt. However, some of your debts may not be dischargeable. For instance, income taxes may not be discharged except where the debt is at least three years old, and you filed your income tax return timely. Student loans and child & spousal support obligations are also not dischargeable. Debts incurred through fraud are, likewise, not dischargeable. You may, however, apply to pay these debts through a Chapter 13 payment plan. The bankruptcy attorneys at Bailey & Gunderson can show you how.

  • What happens in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan?
    • In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy plan, you typically pay your debts over a 3 to 5 year period. Each month, you make a payment amount (usually through a wage deduction order from your paycheck) which is then distributed by the bankruptcy trustee to your creditors. Secured debts, such an automobile loan, shall be paid through your Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan. Your non-secured debts will be paid from 1% to 100% of the total amount of your non-secured debt, and will be paid interest-free. The percentage of your non-secured debt that you must pay will initially be determined by the bankruptcy attorneys at Bailey & Gunderson. Once you have completed your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy plan, any remaining debts not paid through your Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan shall be discharged.

  • Will I lose my house, car or retirement savings by filing Bankruptcy?
    • The bankruptcy attorneys at Bailey & Gunderson will work with you to minimize the assets (if any) you may have to surrender when you file for bankruptcy. You are entitled to keep a certain amount of assets, which are "exempt", from seizure by creditors or the bankruptcy trustee. If the Chapter 7 bankruptcy exemptions do not provide enough protection, the bankruptcy attorneys at Bailey & Gunderson can develop a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan that will preserve your assets.

      Working without an attorney, or with inexperienced counsel, may result in unpleasant surprises for you, as you may have to forfeit assets that you could have saved with better planning. The bankruptcy attorneys at Bailey & Gunderson can show you how.

      The attorneys at Bailey & Gunderson have filed over 1,000 bankruptcy cases. We offer a free initial consultation, and reasonable payment plans for our bankruptcy clients.

      Since 1995, the law firm of Bailey & Gunderson has assisted bankruptcy clients in the greater Cincinnati area (Hamilton, Clermont, Butler, Warren, and Brown Counties). If you have questions or need information about bankruptcy, please call our Cincinnati office at 866-540-8424, or email us.

  • Why Choose a Dissolution of Marriage?
    • A dissolution of marriage offers many advantages over a traditional divorce. The first consideration for many couples is that a dissolution of marriage is a much faster process than a contested divorce. Once your petition for dissolution of marriage has been filed, a hearing before a judge or magistrate shall occur within 30 to 45 days. A dissolution of marriage is usually much less expensive - both in terms of attorney fees and costs, as well as emotionally, because the spouses resolve the issues between them by agreement.

      It is a common misunderstanding that in a dissolution of marriage, the couple hires one attorney who works with them to resolve the issues and generate a separation agreement. In fact, an Ohio attorney can only represent one of the spouses. The family law attorneys at Bailey & Gunderson help to identify all of the issues which need to be addressed in your unique situation. Our firm will work with you to identify all of the assets and debts associated with the marriage, and to determine the most equitable and fair distribution of those assets and debts between the spouses. We also are committed to serving the best interests of your children. Some parents choose to have a shared parenting plan, which allocates the parental rights and responsibilities between the parents, including parenting time, child support, decision making, and payment of health insurance & expenses.

  • What Factors Does a Child Support Calculation Take Into Account?
    • Ohio child support law uses a formula to calculate child support. The law and the formula it establishes look at a number of factors in determining child support. These factors include:

      * The number of children involved

      * The gross annual income of both parents

      * The monthly child support obligations of either parent for other children

      * Existing spousal support obligations from previous marriages

      * Monthly day care, education and health care expenses

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