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Studies Look at Catastrophic Financial Toll on Cancer Patients


Being diagnosed with a life threatening disease is bad enough. The trauma, anxiety and anguish is enough to try the hearts and souls of the strongest victims and their families. Now imagine adding insult to injury: a wipeout of a family’s life savings. That’s the stark reality for people receiving treatment for diseases like cancer, according to a recent study that explored the financial aspects of a dread disease like cancer.

Patients Find Life Savings Depleted

According to the study, 62% of cancer patients find themselves in debt as a result of costs related to care (or otherwise, the inability to make a living at work while undergoing treatment). Over half find themselves with $10,000 or more in medical debt. And, incredibly, the study found that 42% of patients exhaust their life savings during just the initial two years of undergoing treatment. The average amount spent by those in the study was just over $92,000.

These difficulties include those with insurance, as in many cases, the cost of extended medical treatment can far outgrow lifetime limits in insurance policies. In fact, in a separate study, 11% of those studied took a medicine that cost $50,000 per year.

Over half of the people studied suffered some kind of financial trauma, outside of spending money on the medical treatment itself. This includes going into foreclosure, bankruptcies, repossessions, and the breakdown of personal relationships.

Medical Bills and Bankruptcy

There has been much debate over whether medical bills cause bankruptcies—many bankruptcies are multi-causal and it’s difficult to tell from just a bankruptcy filing what the sole cause for the filing was.

Medical bills can certainly can be discharged in bankruptcy. But the damage caused by medical bills goes far beyond just bankruptcy filings. Many people plagued with medical expenses don’t even bother to file for bankruptcy, but that doesn’t mean their life savings haven’t been wiped out, their relationships crushed, or their car repossessed. Counting bankruptcy filings does not account for the people whose credit was ruined by medical expenses, and as a result, everything they pay for is now made much more expensive because of higher interest rates.

The FDCPA Covers Medical Bills

Once medical bills go into collection, they will be handled by debt collectors or debt buyers, who will collect on them as if they were any other bill. In cases where an insurance company should have paid and did not, it is best practice for you to contact the insurance company if possible and see why that is the case—although realistically, many cancer patients have plenty else on their mind than fighting with insurance companies.

It will help to know if any provider was out of network. In such cases, the hospital will need to show that you consented to have out of network care in advance.

Additionally, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) applies to medical debt collection just as it does to anything else. Collectors who break the law can end up owing you money.

If you have medical bills and are getting calls from debt collectors, we may be able to help. Contact Jacobs Legal in Miami today to discuss how to fight back against debt collectors.


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