Discharging medical bills and hospital bills in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy
by Suffolk County Long Island bankruptcy lawyer Alan Pressman
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You can discharge medical bills, hospital bills, doctor bills, and medical lab bills
when you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy.
If you owe money to a doctor or a hospital, it is important that you list (on your
chapter 7 schedules) the name and address of each and every doctor or hospital
to whom you owe money.
Most hospitals on Long Island are what’s known as “private hospitals”. When you
are a patient at a private hospital, there is a bill from the hospital– for the use of its
facilities, including your hospital room, the hospital’s medical equipment, the
nurses, the food etc. In addition, there are separate bills from any doctors who
provided services to you while you were at the hospital. Services provided by a
doctor can include (but are not limited to) surgery, a medical procedure, or just
checking in on you to monitor your status. Often, if a procedure is performed on
you, there is a separate bill owed to the doctor who performed the procedure, and
to an anesthesiologist.
So, when you have been a patient at a hospital, make sure that you separately
list, (as a creditor on your chapter 7 bankruptcy schedules) the hospital you were
treated at as well as any doctors with whom you had any dealings while you were
at the hospital– even if the doctor did nothing more than stop in to your room once
or twice to see how you’re doing.
If you are not sure which doctors you owe money to in connection with a hospital
stay, you can try calling the hospital’s billing department. They may be able to
provide you with this information.
Go through your bills and records carefully-- you want to make sure that your
chapter 7 bankruptcy petition lists all medical service providers-- doctors,
hospitals, labs, ambulance companies etc., so as to ensure that all of those debt
gets discharged as part of your chapter 7 bankruptcy. When it comes to medical
bills, it is best not to assume that your credit reports list all of your medical debts.
It is possible, for instance, that a doctor to whom you owe money did not report
your debt to the credit reporting agencies.
To obtain additional information about your medical bills, you can call the billing
department of any hospital you were. You can also call the office of any doctor
who treated you, as well as calling any lab you used.
Also, keep in mind that in order to discharge a medical or hospital bill in a chapter
a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the services upon which the bill is based must have been
provided prior to when the chapter 7 bankruptcy was filed.
If you are married and have medical bills or hospital bills, it is best to file your
chapter 7 bankruptcy as a joint (husband & wife) petition.
With medical or hospital bills, the creditor will typically try to collect from the other
(ie. non-filing) spouse if only one of the spouses files the chapter 7.
When you go to a doctor’s office or to a hospital, you are usually given a form to
fill out which asks if you are married. If your answer is “yes”, you are then asked
to provide the name, as well as further information, about the spouse. So the
creditor knows whether you are married– and, based on the form you filled out,
they information from you about your spouse, such as their name, and often their
place of employment.
So, in order to prevent a medical bill or hospital bill creditor from trying to collect
from your spouse– if you plan to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy on Long Island which
involves medical bills or hospital bills, it is best to file a joint (husband & wife)
chapter 7 petition.
If a medical bill, hospital bill, lab bill, ambulance bill etc is incurred by a child who
is a minor, the parents are typically legally responsible for paying those bills. As
such, parents should list their minor children's outstanding medical and hospital
bills as creditors on their (the parents') chapter 7 bankruptcy petition.
Persons looking to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy on Long Island often ask– If I wipe
out medical bills or hospital bills in a chapter 7 bankruptcy, will I still be able to
use the hospital, or doctor, whose bills I discharged?
There is a Federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment & Active Labor Act
(EMTALA), which provides that a hospital may not refuse emergency treatment to
someone on account of unpaid bills. As to whether a hospital will admit you to its
facilities for a non-emergency matter, it is best to check with the hospital in
advance to find out what their policy is. That said, I have been handling chapter 7
bankruptcy cases on Long Island for more than thirty years, and I cannot recall a
single instance of a former client calling me to tell me that a hospital would not
admit them on account of their having discharged their hospital bill in a chapter 7
If you are filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy on Long Island where you are discharging
a medical bill owed to a doctor (or a medical group) in private practice, it would be
best to call the doctor’s office in advance to find out what their policy is as to– will
the doctor still treat someone who has discharged, in a chapter 7 bankruptcy a
medical bill owed to the doctor. The doctor may be willing to keep you on as
patient, for several reasons:
1. The doctor may have already received a fair amount of compensation from your
2. Since you just filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the doctor doesn’t have to worry
that you’ll file a chapter 7 to wipe out his medical bills going forward (at least not
within the next eight years)– since you can only file a chapter 7 bankruptcy once
every eight years.
3. Many doctors view their medical practice as being primarily about helping
people who have medical problems, with money & billing considerations being
When you are filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy on Long Island, and you have medical
bills or hospital bills to discharge, it is important to list on your chapter 7 petition
the name and address of each doctor, hospital, lab etc. that you owe money to.
By listing the name and address of every doctor, hospital, lab etc. on the chapter
7 bankruptcy petition, you will help ensure that any monies you owe to these
creditors will get discharged in the chapter 7 bankruptcy. Often, the medical bills
or hospital bills you receive in the mail are from a collection agency. If there is a
collection agency involved, it is best to list (on the schedule of creditors on your
bankruptcy petition) the name of the doctor or hospital c/o the collection agency,
followed by the collection agency’s address– in addition to separately listing the
name of the actual doctor or hospital followed by their address. The doctor or
hospital c/o the collection agency can be specified on the bankruptcy petition as a
duplicate debt. By listing this duplicate , the bankruptcy court will send a notice in
the mail to the collection agency as well as the actual doctor or hospital. This
should cause the phone calls and letters from the collection agency to stop more
quickly. If you have medical bills or hospital bills which you are looking to
discharge in a chapter 7 bankruptcy on Long Island, I do not recommend listing
merely the collection agency and its address. Since the collection agency is
collecting on behalf of the doctor or hospital , it is best to list (on the schedule of
creditors on your bankruptcy petition) the collection agency as a duplicate debt in
the manner described above.
Medical bills can also be included in a chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you file for
bankruptcy on Long Island, you will have to pay a minimum of 10 cents on the
dollar to your unsecured creditors (which include your medical and hospital
creditors) as part of your chapter 13 bankruptcy.
This article was written by Alan Pressman, Suffolk County Long Island
If you would like a free consultation on Chapter 7 bankruptcy with Alan Pressman,
call (631) 234-3883. I have been actively handling bankruptcy cases on Long
Island for more than 30 years. My office is located at 3100 Veterans Highway,
Bohemia, New York 11716
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Evening appointments are available.
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