Studies find cancer and bankruptcy often go hand in hand

Recent studies highlight the financial problems faced by cancer patients.

When one thinks of the reasons why people file bankruptcy, for many people, there is still an assumption that financial irresponsibility is at the heart of the problem. However, the leading cause of bankruptcy is actually medical bills. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, about 40 percent of people in the United States have debt problems for this reason. Although the treatment for many types of diseases can be financially ruinous, recent studies have found that this is especially true for cancer patients.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer patients are especially prone to financial problems, because they are more likely to be unable to work. Without the income a job provides, it is not long before cancer patients are struggling to make ends meet.

Exacerbating the problem that cancer patients face is the high cost of cancer treatment. According to experts, the price of treating cancer has ballooned since the 1990s, when the FDA approved new forms of cancer-fighting drugs. Since that time, the monthly cost of treating the disease has risen from a few hundred dollars to up to tens of thousands. Since high-deductible plans are increasingly the norm, more and more patients are on the hook for a greater share of their treatment costs.

When jobless and faced with these high treatment costs, it is no wonder that many cancer patients have to turn to bankruptcy for help. According to a study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, cancer patients are four times more likely than other patients to need to file bankruptcy by their fifth year of treatment. Sadly, the study found that the longer the patient is able to live, the more likely he or she will need bankruptcy protection to deal with financial problems.

How bankruptcy can help

Although many people fear filing bankruptcy because of various reasons, it is a practical solution that is particularly well suited for those struggling with medical debts. During Chapter 7 bankruptcy, this type of debt is immediately discharged, allowing the patient to quickly obtain a fresh financial start in as few as 90 days. In addition, Chapter 13 can help by consolidating the medical bills into a payment plan to be repaid over three to five years. Although this sounds like the medical bills must be paid in full eventually, this is generally not the case. In most instances, the bills are discharged after only a small percentage has been paid towards them.

If you are carrying high amounts of medical debt, it is important to understand that you have options. The experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Miller & Miller Law, LLC can review your debt situation, outline possible solutions and recommend the best way to help you return to a good financial standing.