What happens when you discharge medical bills?
Everybody knows that medical bills can be discharged in bankruptcy.
Unlike the situation where you sometimes will choose to surrender a car to get out of the debt in bankruptcy, there is nothing to be repossessed or surrendered if you discharge medical bills.
The doctor can’t undo the operation, the dentist can’t take out the filling he put in – medical bills are simply discharged – that’s it. End of story.
But what happens later?
What happens if you get sick again, can you still go to the hospital?
If you discharge your medical bills in bankruptcy will you ever be able to get health care again?
As a practical matter, you will not be refused treatment at an emergency room if you were to have an automobile accident or simply get sick at home and have to go to the emergency room for treatment.
Even if you have discharged medical bills owed to the hospital, you will still be seen. I’ve never seen anyone refused treatment at a hospital because of the medical bills that they discharged in their bankruptcy.
Private doctors, on the other hand, do have the right to refuse to continue to see patients who have discharged debts owed to the doctor’s office in bankruptcy.
Often, my clients who want to continue to treat with their doctor, but have to file bankruptcy, make arrangements with their doctors so that they are continuing to make payments. They do this not because they have to, but because they want to maintain their relationship with that particular doctor.
The choice is made by the patient, not the doctor, however, and the doctor can’t force a patient to pay a medical bill discharged in bankruptcy. The doctor does have the right to refuse to continue to treat that patient in the future, however.
If you have to file bankruptcy on medical bills, it might be necessary for you to change your private doctor. Some doctors choose, and this is their right, not to accept payment plans and simply ask the patient to seek another doctor. Most doctors don’t do this, in my experience, but it’s their right to do so.
Today, many people are required to change doctors not because they have filed bankruptcy on their medical bills, but because their insurance changes.
Changing doctors due to insurance changes is becoming more and more commonplace. There are lots of good doctors out there, and if your financial reorganization includes the discharge of medical bills, it might be necessary for you to develop a relationship with a new doctor.