Medical bills a contributing factor in one-fifth of NS bankruptcies: Analysis

By Chris Halef

HALIFAX – New analysis from Grant Thronton shows over one-in-five Nova Scotians who've filed for bankruptcy have cited health-related issues and spending as a contributing factor. 

The analysis from the Halifax firm shows 21 per cent of debtors in the province struggled with medical-related debt and listed that as a factor in their decision to file. 

Rob McLernon, a licensed insolvency trustee with Grant Thornton, said the numbers don't surprise him. 

“People that I see day in, day out, that is one of the factors,” McLernon said, adding an unexpected illness can be devastating to someone's finances. 

A cancer diagnosis can cost families thousands and numbers from the Canadian Cancer Action Network show a family dealing with a child's diagnosis can rack up between $30,000 and $40,000 in debt in just a few months. 

Debt usually piles up through lost wages from a lack of ability to work, prescription drugs not covered by medical plans and travel or accommodation costs for those who need to travel for care.

McLernon said one of the best ways Nova Scotians can combat falling into medical debt is “planning, planning, planning.” 

“I'm a huge proponent of planning, the old adage is 'if you fail to plan, plan to fail.'”

McLernon recommends on top of planning ahead that people are aware of their current medical insurance coverage they have in place. 

He also suggests not ignoring bills outright as unpaid medical bills may hurt your credit score and future chances of borrowing. 

More broadly, McLernon recommends cuts to daily expenses and using the savings to apply to debts, or seeking free advice from a financial expert. 

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