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We all know that inflation will eat away at our Social Security and whatever pension or retirement account we may have. Few of us realize that rising medical costs will affect us even more. An increasing number of American retirees are filing for bankruptcy.

They’re bankrupted by medical costs in retirement.

Medical issues are the number one cause of bankruptcies.

In recent years, 40% of older bankruptcy filers had trouble paying their Medicare premiums and copays.

In Texas, if your income is below $1,091 or, for a couple, $1,430 (2019), you may be eligible to have Texas Medicaid pay your Medicare premium.

But in 2019 the average Social Security retirement benefit is about $1,430. You may well have too much income to qualify for Texas Medicaid payment of your Medicare premium but too little income (and assets) to pay your premium or co-pay.

If at all possible, use a nonprofit hospital. Regulations encourage these to work with you.

Do not put medical bills on a credit or debit card. If you do, the health care provider has no incentive to work with you on a payment plan or tap its charity fund: it has already been paid. And debt collectors are not in the business of helping people – except for people trying to collect debts.

If you are stuck, see this publication of the National Consumer Law Center: Fair Debt Collection

Remember: a debt collector cannot garnish your Social Security. To protect it, direct your Social Security and other pension or retirement account payments to a separate account that holds no more than twice your Social Security payment.

Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

 

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