UPDATED: JULY 05, 2023 | 3 MIN READ
Having to deal with medical debt can be one of the most debilitating experiences of anyone’s life. We can all relate to that feeling of panic when you see the bill in the mailbox and the urge to set it aside to avoid dealing with it, unsure how to get help with medical bills.
The last thing that you want to do is procrastinate when it comes to dealing with that bill. Ignoring the problem can have lasting effects on your long-term financial future. It can be a scary problem, but you don’t want it haunting you for the rest of your life.
Therefore, getting ahead of the situation is essential before you end up with a collection notice. On average, 58% of bills ending up in collections are medical.
There appears to be an epidemic of young people suffering from medical debt so bad that they cannot pay their mortgage or rent payments.
These same young people who are just starting in life find that healthcare debt has affected their credit scores. 52% of millennials and 48% of Gen Xers have had their credit score harmed by medical debt.
The unfortunate part is that Baby Boomers have had to dip into their retirement savings to cover the cost of medical debt. Young people are worried that the medical debt problem that they have will prevent them from being able to save for their future.
How to get help with medical bills
Medical issues arise throughout our lives, and sometimes, it happens unexpectedly. For example, individuals can get into debt due to a visit to an emergency room or an unexpected surgery. It’s the kind you don’t plan for; it just happens.
Imagine an individual’s feeling when they realize they have a six-week-long NICU visit or come up with an illness that had them fleeing to the emergency room. Those medical bills can hit you like a ton of bricks. For these situations, it might be best to set up health savings account for emergency purposes.
Steps to get help with medical bills
Deal with the bill immediately
We know that opening that bill can make you feel sick to your stomach, but it’s so important to nip it in the bud. You don’t want to throw it on your desk and forget it for six months. It will only make things worse.
Assume that the amount is wrong
When opening your bill, assume the amount you see is wrong. You might be surprised how many medical mistakes happen because patients are billed directly instead of going to the insurance.
If the amount on the bill seems large, your first step should be to call the care provider, the hospital or the doctor and ensure that your bill was submitted to your insurance company.
Attempt to have the amount reduced
If you find out that the hefty bill is all yours, it’s worth seeing if you can get the bill reduced. Hospitals have been known to offer financial assistance if you’re eligible.
If you don’t qualify, there is the option of negotiating for a lower amount or having them set up a payment plan that fits your needs. Most places will work with what you can afford if you make monthly payments.
Don’t pay your medical bills with a credit card
Putting your medical bills on your credit card might be tempting, but that will worsen the situation. You will pay more interest if you pay off the credit card quickly.
How do I pay off medical debt?
You might ask yourself, if I can’t put my debt on my credit card, how will I pay it? Great question. Medical bills habitually come out of nowhere and add up quickly.
Large medical bills can be terrifying, leaving you wondering if you can pay them back. But there is hope before you start emptying your retirement fund or declaring bankruptcy.
Tips for paying off medical debt
Check your bills
Before you do anything, review all your bills to ensure you haven’t been overcharged. For example, if your child went to the emergency room for a broken arm, but you were billed for more than one day, then you have an error.
Secondly, ensure the doctor or hospital has sent the bill to your insurance company. You can also call your insurance company and ask why something wasn’t covered. It could also be a mistake.
At this point, look at your assets and see what you can sell. It can be challenging to pay a $100,000 bill with no assets.
Family comes first
It can be terrifying to go to the hospital knowing you will get a bill. But it’s important not to allow that to stop you from caring for your family members.
Stay calm while dealing with the situation, and put the future bills out of your mind. Wait until your family is in good health and you have the bill in your hand, and then you can create the following steps to deal with it.
Create a budget
Once you have your bills, you can create a budget to get them paid off. You will have a great idea of where your money goes each month. However, you must cover your four basics before dropping money on your medical bills.
- Shelter (Mortgage or rent)
- Utilities (Water and lights)
- Transportation (what you need to get to and from work)
You need to create a budget because if you only have $200 to your name, you need to ensure that you won’t starve while sending your money to cover medical bills.
Skipping rent or mortgage due to medical debt
The shocking reality is that many people aren’t fulfilling their essential needs because of medical debt.
- 1 in 4 Millennials have skipped mortgage or rent payments due to medical debt
- 2 in 3 Gen Zers with health insurance are in medical debt because their provider did not cover the service they needed
- Half of Fen Xers with medical debt claimed it hurt their credit score
- Over half of adults who make less than $25,000 have had their debt go to collections.
How do I negotiate medical bills?
- Shop around to find cheaper providers
- Try negotiating before you get treated
- Understand ahead of time what your insurance covers
- Offer to pay upfront for a discount
- Look for payment assistance programs
- Request an itemized bill and check for mistakes
- Enroll in a payment plan
What happens if you don’t pay your hospital bill?
If there is a period when you haven’t paid your bill, it will get sent to a collection agency. How long it takes to get to collections will depend on the provider.
Can you negotiate with a debt collector?
Debt collectors generally buy your debt for pennies on the dollar. This will allow you some leeway to negotiate with them. Talk to them and see if they are willing to work with you.
How to get help with medical bills
Medical debt can be scary, but you’re putting the power back into your hands if you handle the situation as soon as you receive the bill. Ensure that you always check over your bills to ensure they are correct, and contact the doctor or hospital to ensure the bill was sent to your provider first.
Take control of your life by creating a reasonable budget so that you know where your money is going and how much you have to work with. Also, ensure you have the right health insurance coverage to avoid paying too many out-of-pocket costs.