In the Healthcare Reform Era Medical Bills Still Cause Bankruptcies


One of the promises of government healthcare reform was that the cost of healthcare would come down for the average consumer. Unfortunately, that has not happened. Even more disconcerting is the fact that in the era of healthcare reform, medical bills still cause bankruptcies. It is an ongoing problem that promises to continue until someone figures out how to stem the growing cost of medical care.

According to a January (2016) report from the New York Times, financial problems relating to medical bills used to be the domain of the uninsured. Not only is that no longer the case, but some of the most severe financial problems related to healthcare are among those who have insurance they thought would cover most of their requirements. The problem is, according to the New York Times, that health insurance companies are increasingly requiring people to pay a greater share of their bills out-of-pocket through higher co-pays and deductibles.

It is probably safe to say that the average consumer is not aware of what his or her insurance policy actually covers. It is not unusual for policies to require thousands of dollars in co-payments and deductibles for major illnesses. Find yourself in a position of having to deal with cancer for example, and you can expect hefty bills to cover what your insurance does not.

The Reality of Financial Priorities

A fundamental reality of personal finances is that we all have priorities. A serious health issue or major injury has a tendency of shifting those priorities from other things to personal health. Getting medical care quickly becomes a priority when one is facing a life-threatening disease or injury. But a shift in priorities undoubtedly cause problems elsewhere.

Imagine having thousands of dollars in medical bills to pay and no savings to pay for them. You may end up falling behind in your mortgage or car payments as you seek to keep the hospital happy. Even worse, your continued health problems may jeopardize your employment. Heaven forbid you lose your job; then your financial problems get even worse.

Medical Bankruptcies on the Rise

The New York Times says that medical bankruptcies are not just a problem of the uninsured. They say that medical bills are at least partly responsible for severe financial problems even among those with health insurance. It is hard to say whether or not the cost of healthcare is the primary driver in some bankruptcy proceedings, but the data does show that it is a contributing factor in far too many.

Ultimately, the question comes down to how much a person is willing to invest in his or her healthcare. Is it worth investing a lot of money in tests and other procedures that may be unnecessary, tests and procedures that will increase the amount of money you pay for care? Is it really worth paying for that Gold coverage with the knowledge that you could still face thousands of dollars in bills should you need to be treated for serious illness or injury?

Only the consumer can answer that question for him or herself. And, unfortunately, there is no easy answer. The cost of healthcare continues to rise unabated. And until we figure out how to bring an end to it, we can expect medical bankruptcies to continue. Even in the era of healthcare reform.

If you have medical bills that are piling up and threatening your finances, bankruptcy may be your only option. We invite you to contact us for more information about whether or not bankruptcy is right in your situation.

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