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Cancer treatment and medical debt

According to findings from several studies, nearly 33 percent of cancer survivors in New York and around the country say that they have suffered financial hardships due to their illness. The American Society of Clinical Oncology says that younger patients tend to suffer the most from these hardships. Furthermore, these hardships may last for several years after receiving treatment even if a patient has insurance.

One study that measured 1,600 cancer survivors found that 27 percent of respondents said that they were in debt or had filed for bankruptcy. Another 37 percent said that they had to take extended time off or delay retirement due to their treatment. The study followed patients who were currently receiving treatment as well as those who had received treatment in the past.

Another study followed 174 patients undergoing treatment for colon, breast or other solid tumors. In some cases, patients decided to forgo getting medication or took less than what was prescribed to them. Cuts were also made in other areas of their lives. For example, 89 percent of those surveyed said that they made changes such as spending less on food and savings. This was in addition to spending less on luxury items. Among those who responded to the survey, 54 percent said that they had to borrow money as a result of their treatment.

Bankruptcy may be a tool that allows those suffering from high medical bills to discharge some or all of that debt. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the debt may be discharged almost immediately. Those who choose a Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding may be able to reorganize their debt in an effort to pay it off over a longer period of time. A bankruptcy attorney can explain the eligibility requirements of these forms of personal bankruptcy.

Source:, “Many Americans in debt, bankruptcy paying for cancer care”, October 22, 2014

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