According to a recently released report, Arizonans are dealing with a big issue: Medical-debt collection.
Arizonans Struggling with Medical Debt
A recently released report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund concluded that Arizonans have filed 439 complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regarding medical debt collectors since the bureau first started tracking complaints in 2013. This makes Arizona the 11th-highest rate in the nation when it comes to complaints.
Of those filed complaints, 63% were about firms trying to collect debt that had either already paid, discharged through bankruptcy, unverified, or never owed to begin with.
“Millions of Americans are holding medical debt on their credit reports,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for Arizona PIRG. “A lot of the times, it’s false medical debt.”
The Debt Struggle
It’s been estimated that roughly 62% of Americans are in the midst of a debt struggle, they have less than $1,000 currently in their bank accounts. One in every three Americans has saved nothing for retirement. Why? Because of debt. Student loans, credit card debt or home lines of equity are just various ways that Americans have wracked up large amounts of debt that make it impossible for them to hold onto money, let alone put it away for a rainy day
So how do you know when your debt has spiraled out of control? Here are some warning signs to look for in your own personal spending habits.
Paycheck to Paycheck
The majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. If you consistently spend more than you make and have to pay that debt back each time you get paid, any form of unexpected expense could spiral you further into debt. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you might need to consider how to decrease your expenses. And that might mean making some cutbacks.
Too Many Late Payments
Falling behind in payments can result in higher fees being charged by your credit card company, but also your credit rating. A survey of 100 major U.S. credit cards found the average APR for people that fell 60 days behind payments was over 28% in recent years.
You’re Afraid of Debt Collectors
The best way to deal with debt collection is to actually deal with it. If you’re living in fear of receiving “that call” or even too afraid to pick up the phone, chances are you need to figure out a way to deal with your debt situation.
You Don’t Have a Budget
If you don’t know where your money goes or where it comes from, you need to. Having a set budget, or place where you can track your finances is crucial when determining how to iron our your financial picture.
Considering Bankruptcy After Debt Struggle
Everyone who struggles with debt considers bankruptcy at one point, and everyone who files for bankruptcy does so at a different point in the process. While there is no right answer about the best time to file for bankruptcy, there are some important financial warning signs that you should look out for.
At AZBK Lawyers we can help you watch out for these warning signs and decide whether or not bankruptcy is right for you. Ben Wright has helped clients facing all types of concerns. Whether you need to put an immediate stop to foreclosure or find a way to pay off your medical debt, our firm is ready to help you.
Whether you see obvious warning signs or you are worried that you just have a bad feeling about your debt, we can help you find solutions that will bring you relief. Located in Phoenix, we help clients across Arizona. Call (602) 648-3274 or contact us online today to schedule a free initial consultation.
As always, it’s advised that you work with a phoenix chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer or phoenix chapter 11 bankruptcy lawyer to help you determine if bankruptcy is the next step for you, or if there are other options for you. Below we review what forms of bankruptcy might work for you, what a means test is, and questions you should consider if you are already considering bankruptcy.
What Form of Bankruptcy?
Depending on the situation you’re struggling with, if you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, you’ll need to determine which form of bankruptcy, either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you should file.
Overview of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13
Chapter 7 (also known an straight bankruptcy) is the most common form of bankruptcy and is available to consumers and businesses.
Under Chapter 7, assets are sold off so that the proceeds can go to paying debt. All proceeds from the sales of those assets are handed over to a trustee, who then pays down any and all creditors. After all creditors have been paid off they are no longer able to collect funds directly from you and your debts are cancelled, meaning you are no longer responsible for them.
You are not able to discharge the following debts under Chapter 7:
- Alimony and child support
- Drunk driving judgments, criminal fines, restitution
- Debts incurred as the result of fraud or intentional wrongdoing
- Back taxes under 3 years old
- Student loans
- Recent purchases made for substantial amounts
- Contracts involving titles or liens such as land or automobiles
Chapter 13 reorganizes debt so that you are able to pay back debts over the next three to five years. This pay-back plan is called a debt repayment schedule. Based on your income, and how much you owe, you’ll repay 10-100% of the debt you owe.
You are not able to discharge the following debts under Chapter 13:
- Alimony and child support
- Drunk driving judgments
- Criminal fines
- Student loans
Reasons to File Chapter 7
Chapter 7 bankruptcy should be chosen if the following apply:
- You have no hope and have no future hope of being able to repay any debts
- Your debts do not have co-signers on them
- You are going to be sued by creditors
- You don’t qualify for Chapter 13
Reasons to File Chapter 13
Chapter 13 bankruptcy should be chosen if the following apply:
- You have already filed Chapter 7 in the past six years
- Your debts have cosigners
- You will be able to pay your debts within three to five years
- Your income disqualifies you from filing for Chapter 7
- You need relief from collection proceedings and you want to pay your creditors back but just need some breathing room to get your finances under control
- You want to be able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy some time in the future
- You are behind on your mortgage
- You owe back taxes
- You have assets that could be liquidated in Chapter 7
- You’re a farmer with debt not related to your farming operations and do not qualify for Chapter 12
Do I Owe Enough to File Bankruptcy?
So many people these days owe a lot of debt. But do you owe enough to be able to file for bankruptcy? A phoenix chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer will be able to look at your debt situation and determine if you are a good candidate for bankruptcy. In the meantime, here’s a little more information to determine if you owe enough to consider bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy law does not require that debtors to have a certain minimum debt amount to be eligible for filing bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy is dependent on your individual circumstances.
Quick Note: There are maximum debt limits for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. While there is no minimum debt amount required to file for bankruptcy, a debtor cannot have more than $1,149,525 in secured debt or $383,175 in unsecured debt if he or she wants to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. These amounts are adjusted periodically to account for inflation.
Remember that a phoenix chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer will be able to look at your debt situation and determine if you are a good candidate for bankruptcy.
The Arizona Means Test When You File Chapter 7
To qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona you will need to take the Arizona Means Test, during which your income is compared to the median income for a household of your size. You’ll want to work with a phoenix chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer that is familiar with Arizona’s specific laws regarding bankruptcy.
The means text compares Arizona state annual median income to your household “annual” income. Your “annual” income will be based on an average of the 6 months before you file your bankruptcy petition. If it is determined that your income is below the state median income, you will qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Here are the annual income limits for filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona (these are as of November 1, 2015):
Single Person Household: $45,933
Two Person Household: $56,351
Three Person Household $60,392
Four Person Household $71,195
Based on the size of your household, your annual income will need to be less than these figures to qualify to file Chapter 7.
More Than Annual Median Income
You might still be able to qualify for Chapter 7 even if your income is above Arizona’s median income. You will need to go through another means test, during which your disposable income is included in the calculation. Disposable income is the income left over after certain monthly expenses are deducted, including: mortgage payments, taxes you pay, medical bills, and child care.
If your disposable income meets certain state-set thresholds, you will still be able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Settling Debt If You Don’t Qualify
If you still do not qualify for Chapter 7 after the means test, there are still options for you to help deal with your debt. You might be eligible for debt settlement, or even Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which requires you to set up a repayment plan to pay off debt within 3 to 5 years.
Working with a Bankruptcy Attorney
Bankruptcy can be an overwhelming process. That’s why we advise that you work with a phoenix chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer that is familiar with various debt repayment options. We are committed to helping our clients understand their rights and options under the bankruptcy law and developing the debt relief solution that makes the most sense for each individual. We invite you to call (602) 648-3274 or contact our Arizona office to schedule a free initial consultation.
668 N. 44th St., Ste 320, Phoenix, AZ 85008