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Medical debt driving retired seniors to bankruptcy

Getting sick, suffering an injury or simply getting older — all of these are unavoidable aspects of being human. With the high cost of health care, medical debt may be an unavoidable part of being human, too. This particular economic strain can be devastating no matter what stage of life a person is in, but seems to be weighing particularly heavily on Tennessee’s elderly population. 

Since 1991, the bankruptcy rate for people over the age of 65 has tripled. As the cost of seeking medical treatment soars, seniors often pull from their retirement savings to pay back debts or to get harassing creditors off their backs. Even if they do manage to pay down what they owe, they often have nothing left to live on. As one expert put it, seniors are outliving their retirement. 

In the past, Social Security benefits might have bridged the gap for these individuals. Now, retirees must wait longer and longer until they can receive full benefits or replacement benefits. The retirement system is also drastically different than it was just decades ago, when pensions were the norm. With dwindling incomes, high medical debts and fewer social safety nets, seniors are left with few other options than bankruptcy. 

Bankruptcy is usually an effective choice for handling overwhelming medical debt in Tennessee. However, when a person puts off filing out of hope that one day finances will once again be brought under control, they put themselves at further risk for financial disaster. Although still effective at discharging debts no matter how deep in debt a person may be, the sooner a person takes action the more time the individual will have to recover financially. 

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