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Could medical debt drive you into bankruptcy?

Medical problems never come at a good time. You may have been planning a big vacation. Or worse, you may have been on vacation. One day, you don't feel well. You visit a doctor or go to the emergency room and they perform some tests. They determine you have an infection and prescribe some antibiotics. Your return home, but you do not really feel you are getting any better.

You go back to your doctor after returning from the trip and they realize you had been misdiagnosed. It was not an infection. Your appendix had burst and you are now very, very sick, and close to death. Emergency surgery, followed by more time in the hospital, and eventually you recover. 

You are not concerned, once your recover your health, as you have medical insurance. But at the end of the day, you realize they still expect you to pay more than $12,000 out of pocket. Could you afford that bill? Especially if you had lost weeks or months of income with your illness and recovery?

This is why medical costs are such a problem and can drive even those with "good" insurance into bankruptcy. A major surgery and lengthy treatment, a long period of recuperation or time lost from work, expensive drugs, and dozens of co-pays can all add up to significant sums of money.

And you may not be able to recover the extra costs from the doctor's negligence with a malpractice lawsuit. While $12,000 may be a significant amount of money for your finances, the costs of bringing a medical malpractice case could run $50,000 to $100,000, making your lawsuit not very cost effective.

If your financial health has taken a turn for the worse after unexpected health problems, a bankruptcy may provide the medicine they need to recover.

Source:, "Insured victims of medical errors can end up with big bills," Trudy Lieberman, Rural Health News Service, Sep 30th, 2015

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