Reorganizing Health Care Bankruptcy
53 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2019 Last revised: 5 Jul 2019
Date Written: March 3, 2019
Many health care providers are experiencing financial distress, and if the predicted wave of health care bankruptcies materializes, the entire U.S. economy could suffer. Unfortunately, health care providers are “bankruptcy misfits,” in the sense that bankruptcy does not work for them the way it works for other businesses. This is so for two primary reasons. First, the Bankruptcy Code is insufficiently specific with respect to health care debtors. Second, the Code lacks an organizing principle to allow the court to reconcile the competing players and interests in a health care bankruptcy case.
Previous attempts to address these issues have not succeeded. Notably, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 scattered reforms across the Code, making bankruptcy more complicated for health care debtors. As a result, some have argued that these debtors are better off using bankruptcy alternatives such as state receiverships to address their debts.
This Article asserts that despite their bankruptcy misfit status, health care providers can realize distinct benefits from bankruptcy relief. To be effective, however, this relief must respond to health care providers’ unique needs. Creating separate Bankruptcy Code subchapters for health care business bankruptcies would allow Congress to clarify many aspects of health care bankruptcy and enable the development of specific procedures and a distinct organizing principle unique to health care provider bankruptcies. Although this proposal contemplates a significant structural change to the Bankruptcy Code, the Article also explains why this change is warranted as part of the Code’s necessary evolution.
Keywords: Health Care, Bankruptcy
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