This weekly QA addresses questions from real patients about healthcare costs. Have a question youd like to see answered? Submit it to

Two years ago, I was hospitalized with pneumonia. Because my bills were so high, a few of them went to collections. While Ive worked hard to pay them off, theyre still on my credit report and are affecting my ability to get a loan. What can I do to get them removed?
Congratulations on getting those bills paid off. Many people struggle with medical debt–so many, in fact, that its the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States. But as youre learning, even after youve resolved your debt, it can haunt you for years to come.

If your credit report is accurate, there isnt a whole lot you can do to have the previous debts removed, unfortunately. Time is the only solution, and it takes seven years for collection accounts to fall off of your report.

Credit scores, however, are a different matter. Recent changes in credit scoring models could boost your number, and possibly change the outcome of your next loan application.

The Fair Isaac Corporation, the company whose credit score is most widely used by lenders, announced in August that it would start calculating scores differently. Its new FICO 9 model weighs medical debt in collections less than it does other types of debt, and does not consider accounts already paid in full. Therefore, while your medical account may appear on your credit report, your score will not suffer as much for it. For some people, this change could increase their FICO score by 25 points.

The catch is that itll take time for lenders to adopt the new model, and in some cases, theyll also scrutinize your credit report. If you were rejected for a loan prior to FICO 9s implementation, theres a chance youll get a different result after–but know that, due to your history, it may still be hard to get approved for a mortgage or other loan.

Credit pulls done by lenders can hurt your credit score, so before you reapply its best to take out some of the guesswork. Call lenders whove previously rejected your loans to discuss your denial. Once you figure out why you were denied, you can take steps to improve your credit score and increase your chances of getting approved for a loan.

Next week: How to negotiate unrealistic hospital charges. Check back for my answer!

HARRISBURG- Timothy East, who was picked to become the next city treasurer in Harrisburg, has withdrawn his name from consideration after questions were raised about his personal bankruptcy.

East told PennLive about 4 pm that he submitted a letter to city officials about 3:45 pm Tuesday indicating he no longer wanted to pursue the city treasurer job.

I really dont need to deal with this right now, he said.

East said he didnt know if city officials could get him bonded or not.

It doesnt really matter at this point, he said, since he was withdrawing his name.

East filed for personal bankruptcy in 2011 and was still in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings when he threw his hat in the ring for the vacant city treasurers job last month.

But he did not disclose his financial situation and city council members did not specifically ask him.

City officials performed background checks on East, and five other applicants, but the search only scanned for criminal violations.

Some city council members said they wished that East had disclosed his bankruptcy during the selection process.

Easts exit from the job means city council members will have to pick a new designee. Its unclear whether they will select from the five candidates left from the original slate or whether they will start the process over.

City officials said they hoped to release more information at a news briefing at 4:45 pmTuesday.

PennLive commenters raised questions about the status of Easts CPA license under stories about his bankruptcy. The questions have prompted him to seek licensing in Pennsylvania, he said.

Currently, he is licensed in his former state of New York. He said he has been living in Pennsylvania for two or three years. The states have a reciprocal agreement, he said Tuesday morning. But late Tuesday, he said he planned to seek a local license.

Im going to address that immediately, he said. Im going to nip that in the bud.

East said he had not performed CPA work in Pennsylvania, just tax preparation

A Berkeley County, West Virginia woman who stole money from the US Postal Service in Rippon was sentenced to three years of probation, while another who forged her bankruptcy trustees signature on a line-of-credit so she could buy a new car must complete two years of probation, US Attorney William Ihlenfeld II reports.

* Brenda Carmody, 49, of Bunker Hill entered a guilty plea in July to misappropriation of postal funds. Carmody, who admitted to taking about $2,030 from a cash drawer and post office office box rental funds, also must pay a $500 fine.

* Martina Roberts, 41, of Martinsburg, admitted in July to bankruptcy fraud/falsification of documents for forging the trustees signature after filing for personal bankruptcy.

In August, the companys owners, John and Agnes Eddowes, also filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which allows individuals to restructure debt payments.

The personal bankruptcy documents indicate assets totaling about $6.4 million, with total liabilities of approximately $2.4 million. Freefalls Oct. 2 filing lists assets under $50,000 and liabilities of more than $1 million up to $10 million.

John Eddowes refused to discuss the bankruptcy filings when reached Monday afternoon, saying only. We are open for business.

In its petition, Freefall makes note of $50,000 owed to a Georgia-based aircraft repair firm. An attorney for Freefall confirmed that two planes were taken off-line for a period for repairs, which reduced revenue.

You have creditors that demand to be paid, said Lewis Adler, based in Woodbury.

A 2011 lawsuit by the Georgia repair company, National Aerotech Aviation, sought outstanding payments from John Eddowes for repairs in excess of $120,000, plus interest. It was settled.

It was just standard heavy maintenance and upgrades, said Kevin Williams, general manager with National Aerotech Aviation, which had previously worked with Freefall. There is money still owed.

Recent filings in Georgia show the company is still seeking payment from Eddowes. A federal district judge last week put all matters in that case on hold pending the bankruptcy proceedings.

Freefalls bankruptcy court filing also makes note of a negligence lawsuit.

That suit was filed in April by a customer, Reginald Wood, who broke his legs during a tandem jump in May 2012, said Woods attorney, Salvatore Imbornone Jr.

Imbornone said the accident occurred because the instructor miscalculated the landing zone, causing the pair to crash into a car upon landing in a parking lot. Imbornone could not say whether the instructor was also injured.

In April, a 49-year-old skydiving enthusiast from New York fell to his death in Washington Township after issues with his parachute.

Last year, there were 24 fatalities out of an estimated 3.2 million jumps in the country, according to the US Parachute Association. It was not immediately clear Monday how Freefalls accident rate compares.

Adler said lawsuits such as Woods were not a determining factor in the bankruptcy filing. It has nothing to do with skydiving whatsoever, he said.

856-779-3917 @AJFichera

Harrisburg, Pa., will start the clock again for yet another city treasurer after Timothy East resigned following revelations of his personal bankruptcy. He had been named to the position in September after predecessor John Campbell was charged with theft from two nonprofit groups.

HARRISBURG- The man selected to be Harrisburgs next city treasurer is in the midst of a personal bankruptcy, which could prevent him from taking office.

Harrisburg City Council members picked Timothy R. East late last month over five other applicantsto fill a vacancy after the previous city treasurer resigned.

One topic that didnt come up during the interviews of applicants by council members was personal bankruptcy. City Council members didnt ask and East didnt tell.

READ: City Council members reaction here.

East, a certified public accountant who owns East Financial Services, did not return phone calls from PennLive Monday. In addition, no one answered the door at his office Monday.

Easts financial struggles are important because the city treasurer needs to be bonded and insurance companies may not want to take a chance on a treasurer who has already declared personal bankruptcy.

The abrupt departure of former city treasurer John Campbell also meant the city had to get re-bondedno small task in light of the citys near bankruptcy and receivership.

City officials secured a bond for the city, but are waiting to hear back from insurance companies about East.

Easts personal bankruptcy also poses a public relations issue because the city treasurers job entails collecting and safeguarding the citys revenues and reviewing the citys payments.

Joyce Davis, the citys spokeswoman, said she could not comment on Easts bankruptcy filing. But she acknowledged that the city had not yet secured his required bond.

He was on a previously scheduled vacation, so he was unable to complete some of the paperwork until his return, she said.

During his interview Sept. 29, East counted among his skills thathe understood cash management operations, tax collection and proper system controls. He said he thought hismost important leadership quality was the ability to inspire others.

East first filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in June 2011, noting among his debts thathe had taken out three mortgages on his home.

East bought the home in 2006, according to his filing, for $156,500, He later took out two additional mortgages, and the IRS tacked on a $15,000 tax lien, bringing the total amount owed for the house to $219,000. The house is now worth about $125,000, according to the bankruptcy paperwork.

East also cited credit card debt of about $15,000 and debt from insurance bills, utility bills and car rentals for about $1,800. In all, he has about 20 creditors.

He listed few assets other than his home in his initial finding.

The chapter 13 filing indicates East wasnt trying to get a judge to discharge his debt, but rather, give him time to pay off a portion of his debts after negotiating with creditors.

Late last year, the federal court dismissed the bankruptcy case, removing any protection for East, after he fell short on his required payments.

But an attorney for East filed additional paperwork, asking for the courts protection again, which was granted in January.

The Debtor has funds sufficient to bring Trustee payments current, Easts attorney, Dorothy Mott, wrote in her filing.

Mott did not return calls for comment Monday.

The city treasurer is a part-time position that pays $20,000 a year. Campbell resigned in August after he was charged with theft in connection with $8,500 that went missing from a charity he oversaw. The Dauphin County District Attorney later filed an additional theft charge in connection with $2,750 that went missing from a political action committee for which he was treasurer.

Campbell reportedly told police he used the money for personal college and medical expenses, according to court records.

Parliament approves new legislation to deal with bankruptcy in Jamaica

CMC – Parliament has given the green light to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, 2014, ensuring that businesses no longer face closure when facing bankruptcy.

The Senate has approved the legislation with 43 additional amendments, following passage in the Lower House with 100 amendments.

Prior to its passage, the Jamaican law on bankruptcy and insolvency was contained in two pieces of legislation – the Bankruptcy Act, which covered personal and individual insolvency, and the Companies Act, which dealt with the winding up of insolvent corporate bodies.

The Bankruptcy legislation dated back to the 1880s and had been the subject of ad hoc amendments over the years. The procedural rules of the Act were not only outdated, but also conflicted with the rules that govern other court proceedings.

The new law deals with bankruptcy, insolvency, receiverships, provisional supervision and winding up. It seeks to accommodate corporate and individual insolvency; and facilitate the rehabilitation of an insolvent debtor.

Additionally, it proposes to repeal the Bankruptcy Act, and matters connected with, or incidental to that Act, including amendment of the Companies Act.

The introduction of the new legislation is expected to make the insolvency process less time-consuming and costly, and will seek to address the stigma of personal bankruptcy or corporate insolvency.

According to the World Banks Doing Business Report 2013, resolving insolvencies in Jamaica takes 1.1 years on average and costs 18 per cent of the debtors estate.

Under the new law, the interests of all stakeholders will be given due consideration. It also makes provisions for rehabilitation or re-organisation of the business affairs of the debtor. In addition, a licensing regime for insolvency practitioners is also to be introduced.

Justice Minister Mark Golding, who piloted the Bill, acknowledged it is a very major piece of legislation, a very complex piece of legislation and some 309 sections long, and it has taken a lot of effort from very many people to get us to this point and I think we have a good Bill.

Opposition Senator, Nigel Clarke agreed that the bill was a monumental piece of legislation which is highly technical and complex, and its probably the longest Bill to be introduced since the Companies Act of 2004.

Taken together with the Secured Interest in Personal Property legislation, this represents a quantum leap in the legal and commercial architecture designed for a modern economy, and I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Bill, as I believe it is of fundamental importance to the emergence of the kind of vibrant economy that we all want, said Clarke, who was a member of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament mandated to review the legislation.

The Joint Select committee met over 20 times over eight months, going through clause by clause of the original Bill, and meeting on Saturdays and Sundays as required, he said.

One of the most notable ads of the local political season in the Tampa Bay area has been the Republican Party of Floridas Pop Quiz attack spot on Judithanne McLauchlan, the USFSP political science professor who is trying to knock off Jeff Brandes in the State Senate District 22 race that encompasses much of the Pinellas coastline and parts of South Tampa. The ad has been rated as mostly false by PoliFact Florida,for inferring that the Democrat supports creating a state income tax by saying shes a member of a group (the League of Women Voters) who at one time did support the idea.

But while that income tax claim has been the focus of the ad, it also states that she filed for personal bankruptcy, which McLauchlan has admitted is true. But shes still bitter that such a personal attack was aired in the first place.

As an attempt to attack a woman personally, it really gets to the heart of why I’m running, she told CL on Monday morning. I’m running because I don’t think it should be so hard to send your kids to college, she says, noting how Senator Brandes voted to cut funding for Bright Future scholarships, which she says makes it harder for middle-class families to send their kids to college.

It is a part of who I am and why I’m running, she says. When the ad first ran last month, McLauchlan released a statement explaining that as a graduate student she was experiencing significant health issues, which led to her accumulating debt to contend with those issues. Ultimately everything worked out, but she said that even though she got a job, thedebt from years of living on the margins was too much, leading her to declare bankruptcy in the late 90s.

What happened to me as a young woman 20 years ago does not mean that I cant budget, she says saying. Its a mean-spirited personal attack. She says people ask her why Brandes is attacking her so hard, and responds that he doesnt have anything positive to say about his tenure in Tallahassee. Shes also dismissive of his taking Tallahassee to the woodshed ads that the Republican originally aired during his 2010 victory over Democrat Bill Heller for a House seat, saying that the only people hes been taking to the woodshed are middle-class families.

McLauchlan hasnt been shy in going after Brandes in direct mail ads, but she insists that those attacks are substantive in nature, not personal. Shes been particularly aggressive on Medicaid expansion, noting that the St. Pete Republican was the only member of the Senate in 2013 who could not support Senator Joe Negrons hybrid model thatwould use the federal funds to ultimately bring over 800,000 uninsured Floridians into a state-run program operated by Healthy Kids Florida, which currently offers low-cost health insurance for children who are not eligible for Medicaid. That plan was rejected by the House.

CL contacted Chris Spencer, who is working on Senator Brandes campaign. for a response. He did not respond by the time we posted this report.

Her lawyers had sought a probationary sentence for Rosa, saying she committed the crime out of love for the US and her current husband — an ex-con.

However, Cote sided with prosecutors, who said Rosa, 47, deserved 12 to 18 months in jail.

Cote also wasnt moved by Rosa’s request to surrender after the winter holidays, so she could spend them with her family.

“Request denied,” said Cote sternly, ordering Rosa to report to prison by Nov. 14.

Rosa paid $8,000 in 1996 to a US citizen to engage in the fraudulent nuptials while she maintained a romantic relationship with another man. She claimed the sham marriage was out of “desperation” to not be separated from the man she really loved, Victor Estrella.

The feds say Estrella, a convicted drug dealer and a fellow Dominican native, wasnt a US citizen at that time.

Rosa and Estrella are now married and share a son.

Rosa also pleaded guilty in June to making false statements in a 2009 personal-bankruptcy filing. She failed to include Estrella’s earning and omitted her ownership of a co-op apartment.

The ex-pols sentence includes three years of supervised release after she gets out of prison. She must also pay $19,652 in restitution.

In a bid for leniency, Rosa’s lawyers tried to compare her path to late-19th-century author Horatio Alger, who became famous for his tales of youngsters who rise out of poverty to great success.

Rosa, who once worked as a legislative aide to Assemblyman Herman “Denny” Farrell, became a US citizen in 2005.

Her resignation was part of the plea deal, and she is banned from ever again seeking office in the United States. The feds have said that despite the fraud, they now consider Rosa a US citizen and will not deport her to her native Dominican Republic.