Can I File Bankruptcy Just on Medical Bills?

by Brett Weiss, Esq.

May 7, 2007

I often get a call from a potential client asking whether they can file for bankruptcy just on their medical bills, and not include their credit cards or other debts.

The short answer is that they can file, but not just on their medical bills. The slight longer answer explains why.

Bankruptcy is all about treating all your creditors in various classes fairly. For example, the Court doesn’t want to see you pay Aunt Marge the $1,000 she lent you last year and not pay MBNA for the $1,000 you owe them. While you think Aunt Marge deserves the money more than MBNA (actually, I do too), it isn’t fair to let you pick and choose who receives payment, or give them what the Code calls a “preference.”

Since medical bills, credit cards, most personal loans, and some taxes are all considered “general unsecured debts,” they all have to be treated the same way. This means that all of your debt, not just medical bills, has to be included. It also means that you can’t just file on one or two credit cards, or on one judgment.

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Brett Weiss, a senior partner at Chung & Press, LLC, represents people and businesses in all phases of bankruptcy. He has experience in complex individual Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, and in Chapter 11 small business restructuring and reorganization. Mr. Weiss lectures nationally on bankruptcy issues. He has testified before the Federal Bankruptcy Rules Committee, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and has twice testified before Congress on bankruptcy and credit issues. Brett Weiss is the co-author of Chapter 11 for Individual Debtors, and has written Not Dead Yet: Bankruptcy After BAPCPA, for the Maryland Bar Journal, as well as hundreds of blogs for the Bankruptcy Law Network. With his law partner, he recorded a 13-hour basic bankruptcy training series, and leads intensive three-day Chapter 11 training boot camps. Mr. Weiss has received international media attention in connection with his work. He was interviewed by Barbara Walters on The View, has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC News with Peter Jennings, the Montel Williams Show, National Public Radio, AARP-TV, the BBC World Service, German state television, and numerous local radio and television programs, and been quoted in Money magazine, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, among others. Brett Weiss is the Maryland State Chair for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, a founding member of the Bankruptcy Law Network, on the board of the Maryland State Bar Consumer Bankruptcy Council, and a member of the American Bankruptcy Institute, the Bankruptcy Bar Association of Maryland, and the Civil Justice Network. He has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” every year since 2007 for Maryland and the District of Columbia, and in 2011 received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys for his work on behalf of consumers across the country. Mr. Weiss is admitted to practice before Maryland and District of Columbia federal and state courts, the United States Courts of Appeals for the DC, Fourth and Eighth Circuits, The United States Tax Court, and the Supreme Court of the United States, and has been practicing law since 1983.

Last modified: May 8, 2007