Can You Claim Bankruptcy Because Of Healthcare Debt?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is more complicated — and probably more depressing than any story you’ve heard recently. The United States is still in the midst of rising healthcare costs. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) temporarily slowed the rate of rising costs, but Trump’s successful stripping of the individual mandate reduced the numbers of insured, which increased the rate of rising costs yet again.

And now, more people than ever before are going into bankruptcy because they cannot afford healthcare costs. Breast cancer mortality rates have stagnated in recent years because of these rising costs. When a patient can’t afford treatment, she is more likely to go without — even if withholding treatment kills her. That’s because debt is generally transferred to loved ones. 

The Indiana State Cancer Registry (ISCR) studied the cases of patients whose names were added to the registry from January 1, 2008 until December 31, 2014 to find out how many would eventually file for bankruptcy. The California-based acknowledged that many potential clients were former breast cancer patients seeking debt relief or information on Chapter 7 options. The firm acknowledged that it could help make some victims financially whole again over an extended period, but that most didn’t seek help.

The ISCR study found that nearly all patients who filed for bankruptcy after diagnosis were in younger demographics or lived in low-income neighborhoods. Minority patients were also much more likely to file than Caucasian patients. 

According to information compiled by the Cancer Legal Care organization, the vast majority of all cancer patients do not have the financial capacity to pay for long-term care. Most have limited legal options available, or simply don’t know those options exist. An infographic shows that a whopping 42 percent of patients exhaust all their life savings by the time two years have elapsed. These individuals are 250 percent more likely to go into bankruptcy as those who are never diagnosed with cancer.

Nearly one-third of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are out of work within four years. Of those who go bankrupt because of healthcare costs, a staggering 78 percent were “covered” by health insurance. Notably, the United States remains one of the only developed countries to not offer free treatment to its citizens as a matter of course. Instead, our citizens go bankrupt. Each of these bankruptcies represents another person unable to contribute or produce because of our own culture’s lack of empathy for struggling citizens.

About 13 percent of the U.S. female population will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes — but men are uncommonly diagnosed as well. In 2021, an estimated 43,600 women will succumb to breast cancer. Advances in early screening and overall breast cancer treatment have driven rates of mortality slowly downward, but this could be sped up through increased funding and free healthcare. Breast cancer fatality rates remain higher than any other form of cancer (except lung).