Many people in Kentucky view bankruptcy as a sign of financial failure. Some may even tie it to their overall self-worth or feelings of personal success. The truth is that people do often find themselves in a downward financial spiral due to terrible spending habits and poor financial planning. However, there are roughly just as many people overwhelmed with debt for reasons out of their control.
The elderly, in particular, often become saddled with medical debt even when they have health insurance. NPR estimates that since 1991, the number of seniors over 65 that are filing for bankruptcy has tripled. The main reason provided is that increased medical expenses coincide with reduced retirement incomes. Many baby boomers lost a significant portion of their retirement income in the 2008 market crash, while others may have outlived their retirement nest eggs.
Policy changes in the past 20 years reduced many of the safety nets once available for seniors. With threats of the Social Security funds running out, millennials who are now paying into what remains of the safety net for seniors may not receive that safety net themselves when they retire. Having grown up or come of age during the 2008 market crash, many already have very little faith in the system and the financial markets.
MarketWatch references the same study and acknowledges that Medicare does help to lessen the load of medical expenses for the elderly. However, it does not cover everything. For example, Medicare does not pay for hearing aids, foot care, eye exams and extensive care. In 2013, people receiving an average SS income and who had Medicare still spent 41% of that income on health care. Researchers believe that portion will increase to 50% by 2030.