They took everything we had.
Sherry Faye63, Moneta, Virginia
Approximate medical loan: $ 850,000
Medical problems: Colon surgery
What happened: Sherry and Michael Foy thought that after Michael retired from New York’s largest utility consolidated Edison, they moved to rural southwestern Virginia, and they made all the right preparations.
Sherry Foy loved horses and began rescuing unwanted animals. The couple persevered. And through Con Edison they had retired health insurance.
“We’ve never been rich,” Sherry said. “But we had what we wanted.”
Then in 2016, Sherry, who had lived for years with persistent intestinal inflammation, had her colon removed. After the surgery, he contracted a dangerous infection and rarely survived.
Complications About $ 800,000 bills were generated from the University of Virginia Health System for services that were not covered by Fay’s Health Insurance.
When the couple failed to pay, the state sued Sherry. The only way to overcome this is to declare Fayes bankrupt.
They carefully hatched the house egg so that her husband could retire early. They canceled a life insurance policy to pay a lawyer for cash and the savings accounts they would set up for their grandchildren.
“They took everything we had,” Faye said. “Now we have nothing.”
What’s broken: Faye fell victim to a loophole in her husband’s retirement health insurance plan that limited lifetime coverage to 1 million.
Such caps were more common before the 2010 Affordable Care Act, although there were some plans with these caps.
In comparison, some medical loan patients are sued, and some medical centers have been forced to backtrack on the practice in recent years following news reports about the cases. (Virginia University Health System has changed its policy following a 2019 KHN investigation.)
But hospitals and other medical providers still rely on the courts to collect from patients.
More broadly, direct or partial bankruptcy due to medical debt remains a significant problem.
A nationwide KFF survey conducted for the project found that 1 in 8 adults with a healthcare loan was forced to declare bankruptcy.
What’s left: Sherry said his health has improved.
After the complications of his surgery in Virginia, he returned to New York to be cared for in a hospital where he said his life had been saved. That hospital never paid him, he said. He does not know why, but he believes he may be eligible for charitable care.
Bankruptcy has been devastating. The Fayes receives Michael’s pension and their Social Security checks.
The same year they declared bankruptcy, Michael also had a heart attack and their daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It was a one-year disaster,” Sherry said. “No one has to go through that.”
Sherry has no health insurance. He hopes there will be no bigger medical bills before he turns 65 and qualifies for Medicare.
About this project
“Diagnosis: Debt” is a reporting partnership between KHN and NPR that explores the scale, impact, and causes of medical debt in the United States.
The series draws on the “KFF Health Care Date Survey”, a poll designed and analyzed by KFF public opinion researchers in collaboration with KHN journalists and editors. The survey was conducted online and by telephone in English and Spanish from February 25 to March 20, 2022, in a nationally representative sample of 2,375 U.S. adults, including 1,292 adults with current healthcare loans and 382 adults with healthcare loans. The last five years. The margin of sample error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for full sample and 3 percentage points for those who have current debt. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sample error may be higher.
Additional research was conducted by the Urban Institute, which analyzes data from the Credit Bureau and other populations on poverty, race, and health status to find out where medical debt is concentrated in the United States and what factors are involved with high debt levels.
The JPMorgan Chase Institute analyzed records from a sample of Chase credit card holders to see how the balance of customers could be affected by major medical expenses.
KHN and NPR reporters also conducted hundreds of interviews with patients across the country; Talks with physicians, healthcare industry leaders, consumer lawyers, debt lawyers and researchers; And review studies and survey scores about medical loans.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that creates in-depth journalism about health issues. KHN is one of the three major operating programs of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation), including policy analysis and polling. KFF is a non-profit organization that provides health information to the nation.
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