The Burden of Medical Debt
Without or without insurance, medical debt can be a huge burden. Hospital and doctor’s bills can be extremely high and sometimes impossible to pay without a plan. When combined with other debts, or just on their own, unpaid healthcare expenses are easily one of the largest debts that people can face in their lives, and knowing where to turn for help can be a challenge. What’s more, sometimes healthcare bills are hard to decipher or inaccurate, so it’s important to be cautious whenever dealing with them. It’s also useful to know options are available to you to make it easier to manage your medical debt.
Assuring Medical Bill Accuracy
When you’re dealing with medical debt, it can be hard to determine what you are being charged for. Depending on your insurance, if you have insurance, it isn’t always clear in the first place just how much you might owe. Services might sometimes overlap or be described in technical language, and there can be billing for any variety of tests, medicine, use of equipment, or time spent with doctors or specialists. Hospital bills can be particularly hard to break down. Sometimes insurance companies won’t pay what they said they would, and doctors or hospitals will bill you for unexpected items you thought were supposed to be covered by your healthcare plan. There can also be issues of duplicate billing and other mistakes that are hard to track down.
For all these reasons, it’s crucial to be very careful and thorough when dealing with your medical bills to ensure that you aren’t paying more than you should be. Unfortunately, this can mean a lot of time on the phone clarifying every potential issue as it arises. Otherwise, these issues can be buried in paperwork. It’s also essential to keep thorough and accurate records so you have a reference point whenever a new question arises.
Medical Debt Payment Plans
The cost of medical debt can be well outside of anyone’s reasonable budget, so one of the first things you should do is to arrange for a good payment plan. Most medical debts should be interest-free, and the healthcare industry is usually willing to work with you as long as you’re willing to pay something. If you can’t meet the payments they request, be honest about it and inquire about special hardship plans. You can only afford to pay as much as you can afford to pay and they’re going to have to accept that. Be aggressive about it and let them know that you intend to pay everything back, but you can only do it at a reasonable rate.
When you’ve established what that is, avoid missing any payments if you want to remain in good standing and not have your debt sold to collections. If you discover that your bills were sent to collections, you should call the collections agency right away and tell them that a mistake was made. Of course, if your medical debts are already in collections, you’ll have to deal with that in a different way. In either case, it always helps to talk to a free non-profit credit counseling service or debt consultant.
Medical Debt Management
If your medical debts are just one debt among many, you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon for people to accrue consumer debt alongside medical debt, very often because of the circumstances surrounding the medical debt. If you or someone in your family has had an illness or hospital stay, it’s commonplace for other debts to build. You or a loved one might be out of work, or dealing with other expenses. When debts become out of control, debt counselors can help. They can create debt management plans specifically tailored to your own unique situation.
Medical Debt Negotiation
Depending on the circumstances of your medical debt, you might be able to negotiate a lower payment on your own or with help from a debt relief company. Sometimes hospitals are willing to work with you. Other times they’re more likely to negotiate with a professional who knows more about the system and has leveraging power. Negotiations and even settlements can take place as part of a complete debt relief package, or one specifically centered on medical debt. Talk to a debt counselor to find out more.