Americans likely owe millions of dollars in total medical debt.
Most people feel ashamed of their medical debt, considering it a personal failure. All thanks to lack of insurance and rising costs of medical care. What happens if you are surprised by a medical bill you can’t afford? Read this blog to learn the ways you can use to help yourself in that situation.
Anyone can have a medical emergency. You are not immune to it if you are young and healthy. Medical bills can cause several problems, especially if you don't have the financial backup to manage them. It may be tempting to ignore the incoming bills, but that’s not how you should deal with them.
There are measures you can take if you get slapped with a hefty hospital bill you can’t afford at the moment.
Steps To Take When You Can’t Afford To Pay For Your Medical Bills.
It’s crucial to be proactive when medical bills start piling up. Try these steps to reduce the impact of the medical bills on your financial, physical, and emotional health.
1. Ensure the charges are error-free.
Studies show that close to 80% of medical bills contain errors. That’s because the medical system is a bit of a mess, which is why many billing mistakes are apparent. Some of the most common mistakes include getting charged for services you didn’t get and the medicines you never took. There could also be items repeated on your bill.
Hence, reviewing your medical bills is critical. Besides, you can figure out if your insurance has paid them accurately. Call your insurance on your provider’s billing department to clarify any unclear points or errors if you are still not sure.
You can also try another more advanced technique. Get copies of your medical records and compare them with the charges on your bill. Try taking the help of an expert to get hold of those records and understand each detail.
2. Negotiate your bill instead of ignoring it.
Your healthcare provider has the authority to lower your bill, so speak with the medical billing manager. Your credit score may get affected if you keep on waiting. Be careful, as your bill may get sent to a collection agency, and it can get ugly from there.
If you are experiencing a financial crisis, have a low income, or even facing trouble entirely due to medical bills, request hardship assistance. Charity care may be available at your hospital to help you based on your income and savings. According to Fox, state law requires some hospitals to offer free services or charge low-income patients nominally. When you receive your bill, inform your provider if the medical bill affected your ability to afford it.
A strategy to justify lower charges is to compare the price your provider charged you with other providers in the area. Websites like HealthcareBluebook.com can help you determine what you should pay for your treatment or procedure. Your insurer's website can also give you an estimate of the cost of your care.
3. Practice self-advocacy.
The Medical Billing Advocates of America website recommends you should start asking for massive discounts on instant payments. You can ask, ‘If I pay off 40% right now, will you write off the rest?’ This strategy can work for your provider and you. After all, they will save time and money and will not have to chase you for months or years.
If you can’t instantly pay even a percentage of your complete bill, try getting a 25% discount. Suggest you can pay a substantial amount as a down payment now.
You can also ask for interest-free patient payment plans, but make sure you get in writing the terms your provider accepts.
4. Get help from outside.
Professionals like medical billing advocates, caseworkers, and debt negotiators can help you if no one else does. Most medical billing advocates are lawyers, nurses, agents, and healthcare administrators. They understand the medical billing system and can help lower your bills.
They can look up errors and appeal excessive charges in your bill to reduce the amount. But know that you have to pay almost 30% of the amount by which your bill gets reduced.
One big help you can get is by speaking with a caseworker at the hospital to resolve payment issues. Caseworkers can refer you to churches, charities, and government agencies offering financial assistance.
5. Apply for financial assistance.
Medical financing is an option for patients struggling to pay bills they can’t afford. Most hospitals and medical care providers have the option of in-house financing. They may run this medical financing program themselves or through a third-party provider such as Denefits.
Most hospitals’ in-house financing mandates patients to fulfill some conditions like a good credit score. But care providers using Denefits’ In-House Financing don’t ask patients to meet such requirements. All patients are instantly approved since there are no credit checks.
6. Get a loan.
Medical loans for bad credit are for patients who can’t pay medical bills. These loans should be your last resort since you’ll be on the hook for the APR. Although, you would be paying less interest on a medical loan than on a credit card.
What should you do if your medical bills end up with a collection agency?
You need to deal with it!
Fortunately, internal collection agencies at the hospitals or practices are willing to negotiate patient payment plans. They agree to hold off sending information to the credit bureaus compared to third-party debt collectors.
Here are a few tips that can help you deal with collection agencies in a better way.
a) First, know what collectors can’t do
- Call you before 8 am or after 9 pm.
- Report your medical debt to the credit bureaus if it’s been less than a year since they received it.
- Report medical debts of less than $500.
- Call you at work.
- Threaten to sue you without a valid reason.
- Accuse you of committing a crime for not paying.
- Threaten to tell others about your debt (excluding your spouse and lawyer).
b) Record phone calls (get everything in writing)
Talking to debt collectors can turn into an argument quickly. But they aren’t permitted to threaten you. So always record your calls with any debt collector.
Once you’ve agreed on paying a certain amount, ensure to get it in writing. Make payments only when you have received a physical copy from the collection agency.
Besides, keep proof of all your payments to be on the safer side.
c) Propose to pay something
Undoubtedly, debt collectors want you to pay the total amount, but be firm and offer to pay something that you can. They’ll likely accept it.
Do expect a counteroffer — a couple of them. That’s all that debt collectors are supposed to do.
As mentioned before, ignoring medical bills is not the solution because they may not have immediate consequences, but over time, they do.
It’s best to look for hospitals or medical care providers offering payment plans or medical financing for patients. This way, you can get the care you need while not burdening yourself to pay upfront.
Look for healthcare services using Denefits that offer easy financing solutions to help patients and businesses alike.
Denefits’ Guaranteed Financing and Pay Over Time options can help you to undergo any treatment or procedure and avoid medical debt. Get your treatment now and pay for it later over manageable monthly installments. Moreover, regular easy payments can help you to improve your credit score.