What happens if I file bankruptcy on my Doctor?
When you file bankruptcy, you’re required to list all of the debts that you owe.
You are not permitted to leave anyone out, even if it’s your doctor.
In a chapter 7 bankruptcy, we are permitted to reaffirm, that is, agree to repay, certain debts that you want to pay, typically houses and cars that you want to continue to pay for.
These are examples secured debts
But doctor bills are not secured debts.
Doctor bills are considered unsecured debts in bankruptcy.
There is no provision for reaffirming these bills.
So what do you do?
If you file bankruptcy on your doctor bills, will your doctor stop treating you?
If you’re filing bankruptcy and you owe your doctor money,
you are required to list the debt that you owe to your doctor in your bankruptcy.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to have to switch doctors.
The situation arises all time, and in the 30 years that I’ve been helping my clients to get the financial reorganization they really need, this is what we’ve done, and it works well in most cases.
I recommend that you contact your doctor prior to filing the bankruptcy. If you can speak directly to the doctor, this is the very best thing but often you’ll have to talk to the doctor’s office manager because you won’t be able to get to the doctor.
Of course, if you happen to have an appointment with the doctor and you will be seeing the doctor it would be appropriate to discuss your bankruptcy filing with the doctor at the end of your appointment, I wouldn’t do it at the beginning of the appointment for obvious reasons.
Just explain to the doctor, or the office manager if that’s who you end up having to speak with, that your finances are such that you have decided that the best thing for you to do is to file a bankruptcy and your attorney has explained that all of your debts have to be listed, including the debt to the doctor’s office. But you still want to be a patient and want to work out a payment arrangement.
You can explain to the doctor or business manager that you understand that you have the right to pay this debt and that you would like to make a payment arrangement with the office notwithstanding the fact that your bankruptcy has to list the debt.
In the vast majority of cases that my clients have followed this procedure, the doctor’s office has been willing to work with them, sometimes even reducing the amount that is owed, and accept payments over time.
It is important for you to know that any applicable insurance that you may have will still be paid to the doctor even if you file bankruptcy on the doctor bill.
Occasionally, but not very frequently, my clients have reported to me that their doctor’s office has a policy of not accepting payments or offering payment plans.
In some cases, the doctors simply write off the debt and continue to see the patient. In other cases the doctors have refused to continue to see the patient and in those situations you have to simply change doctors.
Today, with insurance coverage being what it is, families often have to change doctors not because they owe money to the doctor or, because they don’t like the doctor, but because the insurance is not accepted by the doctor’s office.
Many of my clients tell me that they’ve had to change doctors two or three times because of changes in their insurance coverage.
It happens all the time. So, if your doctor will not work with you and you have to change doctors, this simply may be part of the process of obtaining the financial reorganization that you really need.
However, it’s been my experience that most doctors’ offices will agree to work with their patients even when they file bankruptcy.