When the Money Runs Out: Chronic Illness and Bankruptcy

This month, HealthCentral writers are doing posts about the cost of illness and staying healthy. Earlier this year, I did a consumer proposal to deal with my debt, so the natural topic for me was medical bankruptcy and its alternatives:

"Six months ago, I faced reality: my debt had become unmanageable. Having a chronic illness and disability is expensive – some of my meds are covered, but some aren’t and don't get me started on how expensive it is to repair a power wheelchair. After years of juggling my finances, all the balls were crashing to the floor. Paying bills made me queasy, I was paying one credit card with another and running out of money in the middle of the month, which meant using credit to buy food. There was nothing for it. I made the call to a credit counselor to explore my options.

There is a lot of judgment about declaring bankruptcy, both from yourself and others. It feels shameful, as if you failed in the basic task of being an adult. As if you're irresponsible and a spendthrift and a leech upon society. That’s the myth. The facts are startling and sobering and very much not about being irresponsible. Over 60 percent of bankruptcies in the US are medical. That is, they are filed by people who have lost income due to illness or mortgage their home to pay medical bills. Medical bankruptcy has nothing to do with not managing your money, it is caused by an external force out of your control. You have to ask yourself this question: is it logical to feel shame about something which is not your fault?"

You can read the rest of the post here.


AlisonH said…
I'm very glad things worked out okay. Thank you for helping others along the way. I grew up in a household with uncertain income as Dad's business went through highs and severe lows, so I feel for you.
Anonymous said…
We didn't quite declare bankruptcy, but we lost our house to foreclosure, I lost my job and therefore our medical insurance, while my husband was in the hospital recovering from a nearly fatal accident.

We had three months with *no* income, and only had a place to sleep because the guy that bought the house hadn't paid yet, so we weren't evicted.. yet.

It wasn't all caused by medical bills, but the medical crises kept me from dealing with it better.

Things have gotten better, but we still run out of money before the end of the month.
Cathy said…
We live with so much debt hanging over our heads. It is very stressful as you know. Just hope that we do not loss the house. Never in my wildest dreams/nightmares would I have thought that because of my injury that our lives would be this terrible. The main reason that I do not end my life is because my first husband ended his and I will not do that to my family. But some days are so hard.