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Medical Debt Driving Force for U.S. Women in Bankruptcy

Women are at particularly high risk for becoming ensnared in medical debt, according to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund.womandoctor.jpg

The problem, researchers say, is that women of childbearing age are often charged more than their male counterparts for less coverage, and they also tend to earn less income. Addressing these systemic problems is beyond the scope of a bankruptcy blog. However, the effect is a scenario in which some women are grappling with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt for which they would have to go into poverty for a lifetime to repay.

Our Louisville Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers know that many of these women don’t realize bankruptcy is a critical tool and an important option in these situations. The fact of the matter is bankruptcy was designed for these type of cases. You should not have to choose between vital medical procedures and keeping a roof over your head or food on your table.

The study examined the medical debt of U.S. women compared to those in other first-world countries, such as Australia, Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland. They found that U.S. women had a higher rate of medical debt than women elsewhere in the world.

That’s partially due to the fact that a large number of women were uninsured, but even those who had insurance were frequently under-insured – meaning they had sky-high, out-of-pocket costs, compared to how much they earned.

Overall, nearly 19 million women between the ages of 19 and 64 were without insurance in 2010 and another nearly 17 million were under-insured. Whether a woman had insurance depended greatly on where she lived, with southern women at a particular disadvantage. In Texas, for example, the rate was an astonishing 30 percent.

What’s more, those rates are climbing as the economy continues to flounder. While about 20 percent of American women were uninsured in 2010, that’s an increase of 5 percent from a decade earlier.

Then we look at out-of-pocket pay-outs. Nearly 40 percent of women in the U.S. forked over $1,000 or more for medical costs in 2010. Compare that to Switzerland’s rate of 24 percent, Sweden’s rate of 1 percent and Britain’s rate of 0.

When it came to difficulties in paying those bills, nearly 30 percent of women in the U.S. said they struggled. Compare that to 13 percent in Australia, 12 percent in France and 4 percent in Germany.

When we translate what those statistics mean for real people, we begin to understand the enormous scope of the problem. One media outlet reported on a now-39-year-old woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31. At the time, she was a freelancer with a junk health insurance plan that covered almost none of her treatments, leaving her with $200,000 of debt – $70,000 of which she was directly responsible for.

In some cases, your Louisville bankruptcy lawyer can help you negotiate lower payments with your medical providers. But often, particularly in extreme examples like this, filing for bankruptcy and starting over can permit you to put such insurmountable debt behind you in favor of a new financial beginning.


If you need to speak to a Kentucky bankruptcy attorney or Louisville foreclosure defense firm, contact the Schwartz Bankruptcy Law Center at 866-270-4495 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Medical bills drive many U.S. women into debt, report finds, By Maggie Fox, NBC News

More Blog Entries:
Louisville Bankruptcy Filers Sometimes Experience Delay. June 27, 2012, Louisville Bankruptcy Attorneys Blog

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