Protecting Health Equipment: The Health Aides Exemption

This post is part of our uncommon exemptions series, and discusses the Professionally Prescribed Health Aids Exemption under North Carolina law. A concisely worded exemption, NCGS 1C-1601(a)(7) simply provides for exemption of "[p]rofessionally prescribed health aids for the debtor or a dependent of the debtor." This exemption is one that many people do not need, but those who do need it find it to be quite important. The public policy involved is transparent, as it is far more important that valuable health equipment be available for the debtor's health than to the financial benefit of creditors. Nevertheless, there are some key points to consider about this exemption.

First, the aide must be professionally prescribed. An item owned to enhance or preserve health does not qualify if was not specifically prescribed to the debtor or a dependent. The statute appears broader than simply physician prescribed items, by means of the term "professionally." Second, the property must be a health aide. Courts may take issue with items that have a dual purpose beyond being a health aide, such as items with an additional recreational or professional use. Items considered durable medical equipment would often fit squarely within this exemption.

As an illustrative fictional example, suppose a hypothetical debtor living in Raleigh owns a sleep apnea machine, of a type and specification prescribed by her physician. Another hypothetical debtor living in Wake Forest has a therapeutic leather chair which he bought on advice of his nephew, which relieves his back pain while watching television. The Raleigh debtor will likely have success claiming an exemption, while the Wake Forest debtor will likely face an objection. The chair was not professionally prescribed, and has a recreational purpose competing with the health aide role.

A real example of an case applying this exemption is that of In re Man, 428 B.R. 644 (Bankr. M.D.N.C. 2010) (Waldrep, J.) (slip, google).

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Knightdale Attorney Erich Fabricius represents clients in bankruptcy, consumer debt litigation, and in small business matters. He is licensed to practice law in North Carolina. His blog posts consider matters related to debt, bankruptcy, litigation, and other legal issues in North Carolina.

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This blog post is made available for educational and informational purposes only and to promote a general understanding of the law, and not to provide specific legal advice. Use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship. Reading this post is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice based on the unique facts of your situation from an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. No representation is made regarding the currentness of the information contained in this post. Examples that may be provided in this post are merely for illustrative purposes; the results in your case may be different and no results are guaranteed.