Tips for Paying Off High Medical Debt[yoast-breadcrumb]
Tips for Paying Off High Medical Debt
Getting stuck with high medical bills can be super stressful. The costs can rack up quick, even if you have insurance. Things like hospital stays, surgeries, or ongoing treatment for a health condition can leave you with thousands in debt. And trying to pay it off can feel overwhelming, especially if money’s tight.
But don’t panic! There are things you can do to tackle your medical debt in manageable steps. I’ve been there myself, so I wanted to share what I’ve learned. This guide has practical tips to help you prioritize payments, lower costs, set up payment plans, find financial assistance programs, and more.
Review Your Bills Thoroughly
First things first – comb through all your medical bills line by line. Medical billing errors are super common, so make sure there aren’t any duplicate charges or services billed that you didn’t get. This happens more often then you’d think!
Also double check that your insurance was billed properly and covered what they were supposed to. You can call your provider and insurance company to get clarification on confusing charges. Pointing out errors could lower your total debt.
After you’ve verified your charges, call up the billing departments for each provider (hospital, lab, doctor’s office, etc). Ask if they’re willing to lower your bill at all. Stress that you want to pay but are having trouble coming up with the full amount. Often they can give a discount, especially if you can pay a lump sum.
If the billing rep won’t budge, politely ask to speak with a manager about a discount. Be persistent but nice. Worst case they say no. And remember – medical providers would rather get some money from you than send the debt to collections and get nothing.
Set Up Payment Plans
Ask each medical provider if you can set up a monthly payment plan, and how low the payments can be. They’ll work with you to come up with something manageable, like $20 or $50 per month. As long as you pay consistently, they’ll hold off on sending your account to collections.
Payment plans allow you to pay off your debt over time without accruing interest. And making regular payments helps protect your credit score. Just be sure the monthly amount works with your budget – don’t commit to more than you can realistically pay each month.
Apply for Financial Assistance
Many hospitals and clinics offer financial assistance programs that lower or cover medical costs for people with low incomes or high debt. You’ll need to submit an application with details on your financial situation.
If approved, they may be able to significantly reduce your bill or write it off entirely. Definitely look into this option – it could wipe out thousands in debt! The billing department can tell you what programs are available.
Prioritize Medical Debt Payments
Medical debt usually has lower interest rates compared to credit cards or personal loans. So focus on paying essentials like rent, utilities, food, and transportation first. Then put any extra money towards tackling your medical debt.
And avoid taking out extra loans or credit cards to pay off your medical bills – that will just create more debt and make things worse in the long run. Live frugally until the medical debt is paid off.
Seek Help from Patient Advocates
You can also hire a medical billing advocate to negotiate costs and payment plans on your behalf. They have experience navigating the complex world of medical billing and can be well worth the expense. Many will work for a percentage of how much they’re able to lower your debt.
Ask social workers at the hospital for reputable patient advocates they recommend. Your local consumer credit counseling agency may also have advocates on staff or be able to refer you to one.
Avoid Debt Collectors
If your account gets sent to collections, debt collectors will aggressively pursue payment. They may try illegal tactics like harassment and threats. Understand your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act – collectors cannot abuse, deceive, or unfairly try to collect debt.
You can negotiate with collectors to pay a lower lump-sum or set up affordable monthly payments. Get any agreement for reduced payment in writing before sending money. Paying off collections accounts can also help improve your credit score over time.
Consider Debt Consolidation
If you have multiple medical debts with different providers, debt consolidation can streamline things. A consolidation loan or credit card lets you roll all your medical debt into one place with a fixed monthly payment.
This can make managing payments easier, but beware of high interest rates. Explore nonprofit credit counseling agencies that offer low-interest consolidation programs to avoid getting stuck in expensive debt.
File for Bankruptcy as a Last Resort
If your medical debts are truly unmanageable, bankruptcy may be an option. This legally eliminates many types of debt, providing a fresh start. But it damages your credit badly for years.
Talk to a bankruptcy lawyer to explore if it’s right for your situation. Weigh the pros and cons – bankruptcy can provide relief but should be a last case scenario.
Don’t Lose Hope!
Dealing with overwhelming medical bills can be scary and stressful. But take it one step at a time, and know there are always options to make it more manageable. Be persistent in negotiating costs, setting up affordable payment plans, and seeking financial assistance.
And reach out for help – from patient advocates, credit counselors, lawyers, friends and family. You don’t have to tackle this alone. With patience and a plan, you can pay down your medical debt and regain your financial health. Wishing you the absolute best! You’ve so got this.