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Why I Filed for Bankruptcy at 25, and What I Learned

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Aflac, to share my personal experience with insurance and medical debt. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

Can you afford a medical emergency?… The average cost of a heart attack and the care needed to recover is $65,427, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. A broken leg costs around $10,000. Some cancer medications can cost upwards of $10,000 per month. Add those up, and it’s no surprise that medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy is this country. I know from experience that even with insurance, the bills add up quickly, and can become overwhelming. Because it’s not even just the medical bills – it’s also the money you lose if you aren’t able to work for awhile. Many people believe that if they have health insurance, they’ll be ok if a health crisis hits – but do you have a real idea of what out of pocket costs will be if someone in your family gets sick or injured? I didn’t. And that’s what led to me filing for bankruptcy at the young age of just 25.

How to avoid medical debt

Why I filed for bankruptcy at 25

I have always worked – I started as a cashier at McDonalds when I was just 15 1/2 {the earliest age you could start working in Washington at that time.} I eventually moved into retail – I started as a sales associate, moved into merchandising and displays, and eventually to management. I thought I was doing pretty well… I making good money, enjoying the fast pace, and knew I was very lucky to have a full set of benefits in my early 20’s – retirement, 401k, health insurance. Then, I ended up in the emergency room one night. I’d been in horrendous pain for hours, and finally had to do something about it. It turns out that I had an ovarian cyst, and it had ruptured. It took a ton of tests before they figured out what was wrong. And I needed a bunch more tests afterwards – I had a laparoscopic surgery to look for additional problems, ultrasounds, and more. Between the mounting medical bills, and all of the days I had to take off from work for procedures and appointments, I was drowning in bills! I was making minimum payments to each different provider, but there were SO many – the hospital, the doctor’s office, radiology, imaging, and more. I was barely able to keep up.

Then – it got worse.

A few months after that, I had the opportunity to follow a good friend to a new store he was going to be taking over, and be his assistant store manager. It was a lot more money, {which I desperately needed} and an exciting new challenge. It took 30 days before my benefits would kick in, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Well, it turned out to be a HUGE deal. A few days before my benefits kicked in, I had yet another cyst rupture. And, lemme tell ya – the pain from those ruptures was worse than having a baby. Seriously. I tried so hard to wait it out at home, but some things felt different than they had the first time, and I was scared. So I finally let Mike drive me to the ER, and I was barely even coherent by the time we arrived. They ran through a bunch of testing, and determined what had happened, and there were a few complications this time.

After that, the medical bills were crushing.

I had been overwhelmed before – but now I was being totally crushed by medical debt. The minimum payments for all of the bills I had were more than the total amount of money I brought home each month. I didn’t qualify for charity care since I was working. My family didn’t have the money to loan me to pay things off. Soon, I was being served papers at my home, summoning me to court for my unpaid debts. It was so humiliating. Plus – I had to take more time off of work, and still needed to pay rent, utilities, and buy food. After two months of trying everything I could, I finally had to swallow my pride, and see a bankruptcy lawyer. So many friends over the years have told me that medical expenses are “different” – there are so many misconceptions out there. Medical debt is so different than other debt, they can charge unfairly high interest and penalties, they can take you to court, they do not have to make payment arrangements that you can afford.

What you can do to prevent medical debt like I had

This experience was a huge eye-opener for me. It really forced me to become an adult, to realize that I needed to have more money set aside for emergencies, and that I needed to learn what other options were out there to protect me when things in life went wrong. I’ve been an Aflac customer now for years – and since becoming a mom, it’s even more valuable to me. To get an idea of what Aflac can do to help you, try out their Real Cost Calculator –

Aflac Real Cost Calculator – Can You Afford to Get Sick?

Notice how the calculator includes all of the expenses you’ll have to pay if you, or a family member, gets hurt of sick. In 3 simple steps you can see the potential out of pocket expenses for different emergencies like broken bones, cancer or diabetes, or an asthma diagnosis for your child. It includes the total medical expenses, and estimate of what you’ll pay in co-pays and deductibles based on your level of insurance, and adds in household expenses like rent or mortgage, utilities and car payments. It’s pretty shocking to see how those bills might add up, right?

Aflac is different than health insurance – it’s insurance for daily living

Your medical insurance helps pay the majority of your hospital and doctor bills. But Aflac is there to help out with the rest of your life – they pay out directly to you, in cash, to help you cover those remaining medical bills, and household expenses. I can tell you from experience that claims are processed quickly, the forms to apply are simple to understand, and they don’t jack up your rates just because you have filed a claim. They have a ton of different types of policies, so you can choose the one that’s right for you. Most of my family use Aflac too – but we all have different types of plans. And it has helped us more times than I can count: Mike has severe asthma, I have a couple of other health problems, Abby’s been dealing with her seizures for about 6 months now… I have a friend that I shared Aflac information with, who was able to use it to save the day after a difficult delivery and a month spent in the hospital with her new baby. Medical care saves your life – good supplemental insurance can save the day! If you’ve ever experienced big medical debt – or if you’ve had Aflac help your family, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments section…

It’s a great feeling now, knowing I’ve taken steps to prevent a financial meltdown from ever happening again. And it’s easy for you to do it too – Find out more on

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{Photo credit: taberandrew via photopin cc.}


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