Overwhelming medical debt pushes far too many families over the edge into bankruptcy. The sad part is that, in many cases, filing bankruptcy is completely unnecessary. There are many options available to consumers to help with medical debt, they are just not very well known.
If you, a relative, or a friend is facing large medical bills or collections, please share this information with them!
– Read your bills and Explanation of Benefits (EOB’s) carefully as soon as you receive them. If you have been in the hospital, you’ll likely get bills from many offices in addition to the hospital itself. Any x-rays, tests, procedures, anesthesia, therapy, or other services may have their own separate bills. Keep everything in a file and compare dates of service and providers. Make sure you are not getting billed for the same services twice!
– Negotiate everything! Contact each provider and ask if you can negotiate any of the fees down. Be honest and tell them you are having trouble paying the bills. Now is not the tie to be stubborn or prideful. Chances are, there are big portions of the bills they can write off to help you out. Even small discounts here and there can add up to make a big difference in your total balance.
– Payment plans are a good solution for many families. Most doctor’s offices and hospitals have policies in place for establishing payment plans… even before your treatment begins. In the case of a medical emergency or unexpected illness, you can usually establish a payment plan after receiving your first bill in the mail, too. And more often than not, there will b=not be any interest or financing fees. You will probably have a minimum payment to meet each month, but that is also often negotiable based on your income. NEVER put medical debt on a credit card! There are always better options!
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– Hospitals have Charity Care programs in place for people unable to pay for services. They are not well publicized, so you have to know what to ask for. If you are facing a scheduled procedure or surgery you cannot afford, you should contact the hospital to apply for income-based charity care. If you have an emergency situation, they will be able to help you in the billing department of the emergency room.
– Local assistance may be available at the city, county, or state level. If you are facing a mountain of medical debt, start making calls to your local department of health, insurance licensing boards, social services offices, and places of worship. You won’t know what help is available until you ask!
– Support and Advocacy Groups are another source of information and assistance with medical bills. Search online or ask your doctor’s office about support groups related to your medical condition. Whether you are dealing with cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, autism, stroke, or any other medical condition, you can find emotional and financial support through these groups.
– Budget for emergencies! When money is tight, it is hard to set cash aside for emergencies, but it is essential. These “emergency funds” will be your saving grace in an emergency – medical or otherwise. Even if you cannot save enough to cover the whole bill, it may be enough to keep your medical bills from going to collection.
– Short Term Disability Insurance is a great way to protect yourself from lost wages in the event of a medical situation. These policies are usually inexpensive and are available through your employer or private insurance company. As long as you keep paying the premium, your benefits will kick in if you are ever unable to work for health reasons.
– Credit Restoration is always an option once medical debts have been sent to collection and are affecting your credit score. It often takes a long time for doctor’s offices to send accounts to collection and once in collection, these debts are traded from one company to another over and over. This creates gaps in the paperwork – often making these debts uncollectible in the eyes of the law. It won’t hurt you to challenge medical debts through credit restoration, so you may as well try.
Being sick is hard enough – being sick and facing medical debt and credit troubles is a sin.
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This information is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not as legal advice. If you have concerns about your credit report, harassment, identity theft, illegal collections activity, garnishments, or property liens, you should consult an attorney who specializes in consumer rights and defense.