Over half of Americans filing for bankruptcy are clearing medical debt

Medical treatment is rarely optional, just like the bills afterward. And with the costs of care on the rise with no sign of slowing down, you aren’t the only one considering bankruptcy.

The number of Americans over the age of 65 who declared bankruptcy is up 204% over the last two decades, according to a study done at the University of Illinois. The study looked at filings between 1991 and 2016 and found that overwhelming medical bills caused six out of 10 of those bankruptcies.

Fevered pricing

Those numbers aren’t surprising since Americans spend over $10,000 on healthcare on average, and those prices are likely going to continue increasing. This goes hand in hand with the fact that 68% of patients failed to fully pay off medical bills in 2016, a number that is up nearly 20% since just 2014. Studies show that this number isn’t going to level off either, with an expected jump to 95% of all medical bills staying unpaid by the end of this year.

Diagnosing ailments

Filing can categorize your debts, sectioning off what qualifies for discharge. This could mean you’ll no longer be responsible for medical debt that qualifies, but you may not exit the process completely debt-free.

You may not get a reprieve from everything you owe as certain amounts last beyond bankruptcy, like levied taxes and court-ordered payments. But medical debts, and credit card balances you gathered by paying for medical bills, could still be on the table.

Clean bill for health

If you need help getting your finances back on track after a medical emergency, filing for bankruptcy may be the best course of action. Understanding what kinds of debts the process can discharge when you file could be the first step toward receiving the help you need.