“We ran out of hope”: Medical debts cripple American families

“We ran out of hope”: Medical debts cripple American families

“We ran out of hope”: Medical debts cripple American families

Greeley, Colorado — Jim and Cindy Powers’ medical debt struggles began in 2004, when Cindy needed emergency surgery to repair a life-threatening abdominal obstruction. At the hospital, she says, she contracted MRSA, a potentially fatal bacterial infection. That led to 18 operations in a span of five years.

“It was scary at times because I knew at least three times where she died on the operating table and they had to restart her heart,” Jim said.

As if that wasn’t stressful enough, the bills started to pile up.

“That’s when the phone started ringing,” Jim told CBS News, which, in partnership with Kaiser Health News, sent the devastating cost of medical debt to families

Despite having insurance, the couple now owed nearly $50,000 in medical bills. The couple, who had three children, could not afford it and filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Then they found out there was even more bad news.

“Then we found out there was a little over a quarter of a million dollars in debt,” Jim said.

At least with the Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the Powers kept their house.

Or so they thought.

Four years later, a new mortgage broker had the house taken out of bankruptcy protection and seized.

“It was hopeless. We ran out of hope,” Cindy said. “It just got worse and worse and worse.”

Many face similar situations. More than 100 million people in the US are in debt, according to a survey by Kaiser Health News and NPR.

A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that in the past five years, more than half of American adults have been in debt because of medical and dental bills. One in five said they don’t expect to ever pay it off.

“Healthcare just costs so much more in the United States than almost anywhere else in the world,” says health policy researcher Aaron Carroll. “Very few people can afford medical expenses out of pocket. Healthcare is super expensive. And even with insurance, it can be too hard for the average American, unfortunately.”

It’s a burden that Cindy carries every day. She said she felt guilty and ashamed of being sick “because it costs us so much money and so much heartache.”

“It will always be in the back of my mind. What could go wrong next,” she said. “But I try not to live my life in fear and just be very purposeful to have joy and find hope in every day. It’s important.”