A cancer diagnosis often leads to bankruptcy, study finds

A recent study found that cancer patients are particularly susceptible to needing bankruptcy protection.

In the United States, many people suffer severe financial stress when they experience the need for unexpected medical treatment. According to a report published in The Atlantic, about 40 percent of the populace are struggling with debt because of medical bills. Although most types of medical treatments can potentially lead to overwhelming bills, recent data found that cancer patients in particular are left with debts they cannot pay.

Why is this? A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the effects of cancer and treatment make it likely that the patient will be unable to work. Because many no longer have a job, cancer patients are more likely to suffer financial problems than those with other medical conditions. The National Cancer Institute found that cancer treatment will cost the nation's economy approximately $150 billion by the year 2020.

Unfortunately, data indicates that cancer patients are also more likely to seek bankruptcy protection. A study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center concluded that cancer patients are four times more likely to file bankruptcy by their fifth year of treatment. To make matter worse, the study found that the longer the cancer patient is able to live, the greater the likelihood that he or she will need bankruptcy protection.

Experts say that the high price of new cancer drugs is contributing to the problem. Since the FDA approved new drugs in the 1990s, the monthly cost of treating the condition has leaped from a few hundred dollars to up to $10,000. Also, for many patients, insurance is paying less and less of the treatment cost, as the number of patients with high-deductible plans has ballooned in recent years. When jobless and faced with high monthly treatment costs that insurance does not fully cover, it is only a matter of time until many are stretched to their financial breaking points.

An attorney can help find solutions

Although filing bankruptcy may sound dire, in reality it is a practical solution that can help many get out from under overwhelming debt. It is particularly effective at getting rid of medical bills. In Chapter 7, this type of debt, as well as most unsecured debts, are quickly discharged. In Chapter 13, medical debt may have to be repaid under the payment plan. However, if this is the case, the debt is discharged after only a fraction has been paid towards it, in most instances. Once bankruptcy has been completed, the filer has a clean slate financially and can begin a life free of most debts.

If you are struggling with debts because of medical bills, it is wise to seek the advice of a bankruptcy attorney. The experienced attorneys at Pelley Law Office, L.L.P can review your debt relief options with you and help you select the best solution for your needs.