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Web Exclusive: Possible Barriers to Palliative Care
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Doctors in Training
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Now That I'm An Adult
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For When It Hurts
March 10, 2008 – Joanne Kenen
Cancer Around the World
March 10, 2008 – Jo Cavallo
Making a Difference
March 10, 2008 – Jo Cavallo
The High-Risk Crowd
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Risk Factors: Close to Home
March 10, 2008 – Nicole LeBrasseur, PhD
What's Behind the Screen?
March 10, 2008 – Nicole LeBrasseur, PhD
Long-Distance Lifesavers
March 10, 2008 – Marc Silver
Intimacy Issues
March 10, 2008 – Curtis Pesmen
Protecting Yourself
March 10, 2008 – Katy Human
Schools Get Schooled on Parents with Cancer
March 10, 2008 – Erik Ness
DES Exposure: Questions and Answers
March 10, 2008 – The American Cancer Society
Are Public Awareness Campaigns Effective?
March 10, 2008 – Lacey Meyer
The New Specialty in Cancer Care
March 10, 2008 – Joanne Kenen
Below the Surface
March 10, 2008 – Nicole LeBrasseur, PhD
Another Deafening Silence
March 10, 2008 – Betty Ferrell, PhD, RN
How Out-of-Towners Stay in the Loop
March 10, 2008 – Marc Silver
Are Minorities Benefiting From Prevention Priority?
March 10, 2008 – Jo Cavallo
Marriage and Cancer?
March 10, 2008 – Curtis Pesmen
On the Defensive
March 10, 2008 – Katy Human
Breast Cancer & Lung Cancer
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
When the Ordinary Becomes the Ideal
March 10, 2008 – Linn Kurkjian
Straight Talk
March 10, 2008 – Erik Ness
Dieting Away Cancer?
March 10, 2008 – Lena Huang
Message from the Publisher
March 10, 2008 – Susan McClure
More Radiation in Less Time
March 10, 2008 – Laura Beil
Letters from Our Readers
March 10, 2008
Friend in Need: Chemo Duck
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Breast Cancer Risk May be Overstated in BRCA Carriers
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Q&A: Predicting Breast Cancer Recurrence
March 10, 2008 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Journeys Through Cancer: Art of Healing & Hope
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Cancer on $5 a Day (*chemo not included): How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life
March 10, 2008 – Kathy LaTour
Exploring the Origin of Childhood Leukemia
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
We Can Weekend
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Seventies Musicians Linked by Cancer
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Insurance for Clinical Trial Care a State-by-State Battle
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington

Bearing the Bankruptcy Burden

To combat medical indebtedness, some cancer survivors are ending up in bankruptcy court. 

BY Teresa McUsic
PUBLISHED July 21, 2010

To combat medical indebtedness, some survivors of cancer and other catastrophic illnesses are ending up in bankruptcy court. A 2005 study published in the journal Health Affairs estimated that medical bankruptcies affect about 2 million Americans every year, including not just debtors, but their dependents.

Bankruptcy laws enable people who can no longer pay their creditors to begin their financial lives again, usually by creating a manageable repayment plan. 

Cancer survivors in bankruptcy court have the highest annual out-of-pocket medical expenses of all medical cases, averaging $35,000 per patient, according to figures from The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Despite changes in bankruptcy law in 2005, medical debt still can be discharged, whether it’s on credit cards or with care providers, says Mark Scarberry, Pepperdine University law professor and fall 2007 resident scholar at the American Bankruptcy Institute. “The usual result is it will be discharged, so the patient won’t be responsible for it anymore, and the doctors and hospital will likely get nothing. But the change in the law has frightened some people away from filing.”

Misinformation about changes in the law is abundant, but Scarberry says that the bankruptcy system is still a very viable option for people with unmanageable debt.

“Look at your debt, and if there is no way to pay it back and maintain a reasonable standard of living, and you see no future way out of it, then it’s probably time,” he says.

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