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Can one hospital visit lead to bankruptcy?

Medical expenses related to emergency care after an accident can have the highest cost. One accident without proper health insurance can leave you in financial ruin and may even cause you to file for bankruptcy.

Economic hardship has left many families drained of their savings and medical costs have gone up over the last few years. This means even a minor accident could cost thousands and without health insurance, you will be required to pony up cash for the bills.

The number of bankruptcies filed each year due to medical bills has risen in the last 10 years by 10%. Many of these cases were from people with insurance that helped pay a portion of the bills, but a large percent was from people and families with no insurance.

How much could an accident cost if I do not have health insurance?

The actual cost of treatment following an accident will depend on your injuries and the care you need and receive. Every case is different but the average cost for emergency room care is $3,000. This is just for the emergency room if you need surgery or are admitted the price will go up rapidly.

If you need surgery, you could be facing bills up to $100,000. They average surgery costs around $30,000, but complicated surgeries like a spinal fusion can be triple. If you need more than one surgery, you will be billed for each one individually as well.

You will receive a bill from the hospital, the surgeon, and anyone else needed to help treat you. Any tests needed may be billed separately as well. This may include things like scans, x-rays, and lab work.

The average cost for one night in the hospital is $1,500. The average stay is four days. This means you could end up paying another $6,000. If you need to be in intensive care, expect even more expenses as that requires more specialty care and monitoring.

As you can see, these expenses add up fast. Even after you leave the hospital, you will need follow up care. You may be facing months of doctors’ visits and physical therapy. If you have severe injuries, you may not be able to work. This means in addition to the bills, you will lose income.

What happens if I cannot pay the medical bills from my accident?

Hospitals and doctors will make numerous attempts to contact you to collect money towards your bills. If you do not pay your hospital bills, they will be forced to take further action.

The hospital will sell your debt to a third-party collection agency and be forced to write off the remainder of your debt. The collection agency is now free to attempt to collect your debt and will typically harass you emotionally to pay up, not to mention reporting your debt to the credit bureaus. This will have an impact on your credit score and ability to get a loan and stay on your report for years after it is paid off.

If the collection agencies that attempt to collect the debt are not successful, they can take you to court. The type of lawsuit they file against you will depend on the amount of debt owed but now you have legal expenses as well.

If you fail to appear, the judge will rule a forfeit and grant the collection agency a judgment. This means the agency can then put a lien on any property you own to collect their debt. If you try to sell the property, the profits will go to the lien holder to pay your debt. If the profits do not cover the full amount of the lien, you will have to pay the difference before you can complete the sale.

Collection agencies can also use the judgment issued to garnish your wages. They will notify your employer of the judgment and the amount to garnish from your paycheck. Your employer is legally obligated to comply and will have to will take a certain portion of your pay and send it to the collection agency.

Many people realize they cannot pay these medical bills and are forced to file bankruptcy. When you file bankruptcy, the courts will either appoint a trustee to manage your assets or accept a payment plan that your creditors will accept. This will depend on which type of bankruptcy you file.

Once you have completed your obligation under the terms of your bankruptcy, any remaining debt is discharged. A bankruptcy will stay on your credit for seven years and can be very hard to recover from. In most cases, you have no credit available and your credit score is too low to get new credit if needed. This means if you have another financial devastation you may end up right back where you started. You might not be able to file bankruptcy again though.

Is there any help available for medical bills?

Many hospitals will try to work out some type of payment plan with you. They would rather receive small payments over time than nothing at all. If you do not make the agreed upon payments they will send your account balance to collections.

You can also see if your hospital or doctor offers a sliding fee scale to help reduce overall costs for lower income people. Many hospitals also have a list of non-profit organizations who have grants or donations available to assist with medical debt for qualified individuals.

Never take health insurance for granted. Without having health insurance almost everyone in America is one single accident away from financial ruin.

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