Bankruptcy and Continuing Medical Care
When considering filing for bankruptcy there are a number of factors to evaluate. Many of our clients are facing serious financial and emotional losses, perhaps even including foreclosure of a home or repossession of a vehicle. We can help with these issues and many others. When you file a bankruptcy petition creditors are not permitted to keep contacting you for payment. Now, there are some exceptions; for example, if you want to keep your house you may find it easiest to discuss small matters (like a payment address or a change in escrow accounts) directly with your lender. If you would like to do this we can discuss this and fill out the proper paperwork to allow that type of communication.
Though there are exceptions, the general rule is that your creditors cannot continue to contact you after you file for bankruptcy. This protection is called the "automatic stay". However, you should know that this protection has limitations. While the creditor cannot try to obtain payment from you or contact you regarding payment, the creditor does not have to continue to do business with you in the future. In most cases credit card companies will close accounts of cardholders that file for bankruptcy.
Where this can be particularly troublesome is when your doctor or hospital is listed as a creditor. We have many clients, both with and without medical insurance, that owe their doctor or hospital money. This can range from a small copay to thousands of dollars for medical care. Once you file bankruptcy your doctor or hospital does not have to continue to provide you with services. Of course, there are exceptions if you require emergency care as medical professionals are required to provide anyone needing emergency care with services, regardless of ability to pay or other considerations. However, the provider would only have to stabilize you and then could refer you to another provider.
We know this sounds a bit scary, but there are various options available. If the amount owed is very small, and you can afford it, you may be able to pay the amount prior to filing for bankruptcy and not be required to list your doctor or provider as a creditor. Please note, that it is absolutely imperative that you speak with us before doing this, as certain types and amounts of payments prior to a bankruptcy can be considered fraudulent and will complicate your bankruptcy. If payment is not an option you may be able to contact your provider and explain the situation to find out their policy in advance. You may also choose to voluntarily repay the debt. The doctor cannot ask for that, or require it, but in some cases doctors have accepted the payments and continued treatment. Finally, if these solutions will not work, we can talk about different bankruptcy options that involve repayment of creditors.
If you have questions about this, or any other matter, please contact your St. Louis Bankruptcy Attorney today!