California Health Aids Exemption in Bankruptcy
California CCP Section 704.050 exempts health aids reasonably necessary to enable the debtor or their spouse to work or sustain health, including prosthetic and orthopedic appliances. The section exempts qualifying health aids in their entirety. In other words, a qualifying health aid is 100% exempt under the section as opposed to being exempt to a certain dollar amount. Therefore, devices used to alleviate particular medical handicaps or ailments are 100% exempt under the health aid California bankruptcy exemption.
Qualifying health aids are in the nature of medical devices as opposed to recreational items. For instance, a prosthetic limb will qualify as a health aid and the debtor can exempt 100% of the limb in chapter 7 bankruptcy. In essence, the prosthetic limb is reasonably necessary for the debtor to sustain their health; absent the prosthetic limb the debtor’s physical handicap would be exacerbated. In contrast, recreational items such as swimming pools or treadmills are not health aids. While recreational exercise equipment may sustain overall health, they are not reasonably necessary to sustain health like a prosthetic limb or wheelchair.
Medical vs. Recreational
As mentioned above, the main thrust of Section 704.050 is to exempt health aids that serve some medical purpose. Courts have readily exempted property as health aids where the debtor held some medical impairment that was mitigated by a particular device. For instance, a Santa Rosa bankruptcy debtor who has difficulty walking can easily exempt a walker or cane as a health aid. In contrast, a debtor without some medical problem directly alleviated by a particular device will have difficulty exempting property used to maintain overall health in bankruptcy.