Medical bills lead many families to file for bankruptcy

Even with insurance, costs add up quickly

Published:

 

More than 90 percent of people who filed medical-related bankruptcy in 2007 had medical debts of more than $5,000. The rest met the criteria for medical bankruptcy because they lost significant income due to illness or mortgaged a home to pay medical bills, according to a study in the American Journal of Medicine.

The tab for medical care can add up quickly. Take a breast cancer diagnosis, for example. Using the Healthcare Blue Book website, which calculates fair market prices for medical services in specific ZIP codes, a breast cancer diagnosis bill can easily top $25,000 in Clark County.

A bilateral mammogram costs about $270. A biopsy to test a suspicious area costs about $1,070, according to the site.

A total mastectomy would cost about $11,500, which includes the surgical procedure, anesthesia and a two-day stay in the hospital. If the patient also needs chemotherapy, a four-day hospitalization for treatment will run about $13,400. Add another $260 per radiation treatment, according to the Healthcare Blue Book.

Insurance companies, in general, will cover 60 to 80 percent of medical costs, said Rich Roesler, spokesman for the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

A vast majority of health plans also have a stop-loss provision, which protects people who experience catastrophic illness or injury, Roesler said. When a person's out-of-pocket costs hit a certain mark -- usually between $3,000 and $7,000 -- the insurance company pays the entire bill for medical care, except for prescription co-pays, he said.-- Marissa Harshman