Article By: Whitney G. Coats, J.D.
When you file bankruptcy, you must list all of your creditors, regardless of who the creditor is and regardless of how much you owe the creditor. Under the law, all creditors must be treated equally which means a bankruptcy filer cannot pick and choose which creditors stay in or out of their bankruptcy. The definition of a creditor is anyone an you know you owe money to or that you believe could ever claim you owe them money, regardless of when the debt was accrued in your past and regardless of the validity of the claim.
The question that I often hear from clients when filing bankruptcy is whether they need to include their doctor bills in their bankruptcy? The answer is yes, your doctor bills must be included, if there is a balance owed to the doctor, which makes the doctor a creditor. If you don’t currently have an outstanding bill for the doctor then the there is no debt to include, i.e. the doctor is not a creditor because you do not owe the doctor any money for medical services performed.
Including a medical debt owed to a doctor obviously lends itself to the concern of whether the doctor will discontinue providing medical services if you no longer pay their medical bill? The answer to this question is yes, the doctor’s office may refuse to discontinue providing medical services to an individual who filed bankruptcy for a debt owed. Therefore, if it’s the case that you need continued medical services from your doctor, then you may need to make arrangements with the doctor’s office to continue making voluntary payments for the debt owed so your medical services are not disrupted. If the debt is a substantial debt that you just won’t ever be able to pay back, it may be necessarily to locate a different medical provider.
For example, Bob is a diabetic who requires regular quarterly visits to Dr. Smith’s office. Bob currently owes $430.00 to Dr. Smith’s for medical services provided and is anticipating filing bankruptcy in the next two weeks. He does not want to include Dr. Smith as a creditor in his bankruptcy and fears Dr. Smith will discontinue providing him the necessary medical services he needs if he includes his doctor bill in his bankruptcy. Bob has a couple of ways to approach this issue: (1) Bob can pay the balance owed to Dr. Smith prior to filing bankruptcy, which means Dr. Smith will not be a creditor when Bob files bankruptcy, or (2) Bob can contact Dr. Smith’s office to work out a payment arrangement after he files bankruptcy, so that Dr. Smith will continue to provide the necessary medical services.
A lot of people filing bankruptcy have medical debt they can no longer pay. If you don’t need continued medical services, the medical debt you have will be discharged in your bankruptcy proceeding. There are a lot of questions that I can help answer for individuals considering filing bankruptcy. Don’t continue to be stressed about your current financial circumstances and the unanswered question of whether bankruptcy may be a good option for you to pursue. Contact my office today, so we can discuss the uncertainties in your life and you can get the answers and direction moving forward into the future.
Whitney G. Coats, J.D., Of Counsel, is a Scottsdale bankruptcy attorney who works with the Dana Law Firm in its Consumer Bankruptcy Department.