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Medical bills cause bankruptcy rise among older adults

People in Oregon who are 55 and older may be more likely to file for bankruptcy than they would have been 30 years ago. Between 1991 and 2016, the percentage of people in the 55 to 64 age group who declared bankruptcy went up 66%. For those 65 to 74, it has increased more than 200%. In 1992, only around 2% of people who filed for bankruptcy were 65 and older. That has risen to 12%.

One of the main reasons for this surge in bankruptcies is medical costs, with 60% of the bankruptcies filed by people 65 and older the result of unpaid medical bills. Some of them have run out of savings completely, and since many are no longer working full time or at all, they are unable to catch up.

They may also struggle to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy although it is still possible. Bankruptcy harms a credit report the most in the first two years and becomes less significant over time. One way people can start to rebuild their credit is with a secured credit card. This is a credit card that they make a deposit on, usually for small amounts. Regular use and paying it off for a year or so usually allows them to apply for a regular card.

Fear of being unable to rebuild credit is one reason some people may hesitate to file for bankruptcy. An attorney may be able to explain other misconceptions as well as whether a person is eligible for bankruptcy and if there are other options for debt relief. Another bankruptcy misconception is that a person will lose everything. Filing for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can stop a home foreclosure and allow a person to create a payment plan to keep it.

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The Law Office of Kim Covington is a debt relief agency, and I have helped families, individuals and small businesses, file for bankruptcy relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, for over 19 years.

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