How To Pay Medical Bills You Can’t Afford
Medical debt or medical bills can come out of nowhere and hit us. Just think about a situation where you or your family member had to be hospitalized for a medical emergency.
By definition, an emergency would be something serious and unexpected. There may be instances where the bill could be substantial, especially if the illness or treatment was significant.
To make matters worse, what if you did not have insurance or your insurance coverage wasn’t sufficient to cover some of the major expenses listed on the bill?
Such instances can put a tremendous strain on your finances when you are not prepared to take such a massive hit. Medical debt can eventually show up on your credit report and adversely impact your credit scores.
So, how can you tackle large and unexpected medical payments without going bankrupt? There are a few solutions that you can consider. They are listed below as follows:
First, verify all the information
Just because you have been handed a large medical bill does not mean the world will end for you. The first thing you need to do is keep calm and think about solutions. Often times, the medical bill may not accurately reflect all of the benefits that your insurance policy entitles you to.
The first thing you need to do is go through your health insurance and check if it is consistent with the explanation of benefits on your policy. If you find any discrepancy, then bring that up immediately. You do not have to take a medical bill at its face value right away.
Request for a payment plan
If you are not in a position to pay off the complete medical bill in one shot, then ask the hospital or healthcare provider to offer you some time.
Sit down and work out a monthly payment that you can make for a pre-determined duration. You would want the monthly payment amount to be reasonable enough and something that you can pay with your current income levels.
Generally, the total medical bill is broken down into equal monthly payments.
Make sure you clarify if the healthcare provider will charge any fees or charges if you opt for the payment plan route. You want to make sure you know the total cost that you need to cover and whether those fees and charges are affordable.
Medical credit cards
If your healthcare provider is not agreeing on a payment plan, then ask a medical credit card is accepted. Healthcare providers accept such credit cards for specific medical procedures.
Medical credit cards can have a 6-month or 1-year interest-free period and that works out well if you can repay back the bills within such a timeframe.
However, deferred interest is charged on the medical credit card post the interest-free period. So, the payments can potentially get more expensive later on.
Generally, medical credit cards work well for those who cannot pay the medical bill immediately.
People with decent income levels who can clear the bill within the interest-free period can apply for a medical credit card. Even those who can afford to make medical credit card payments after the interest-free period ends can consider this option.
Negotiate the bills down
Yes, it is possible to ask for a lower bill. A bazaar in a developing country is not the only place where you can bargain. You can very much negotiate with the healthcare provider and try to lower your bill.
Some obvious places to start would be each item on the bill. Sometimes, some items may have been erroneously added. Any charges that seem wrong or too high should be discussed.
You should not feel any hesitation or shame in having conversations about your bill amount with the healthcare provider.
If you explain your inability to pay and if you genuinely cannot afford to pay, then the healthcare provider may be open to discussion. If you do not have health insurance, then you will almost certainly be given a higher bill.
In such cases, you can suggest that you will only pay what a Medicaid or a BlueCross might pay.
Hire a medical bill advocate (if you can afford to)
If you have the finances and if you do not want to negotiate with the healthcare provider on your own, hire a medical bill advocate. They specialize specifically in looking at medical bills and finding ways to lower them.
They are experienced in reading the fine print and spotting common costs for various procedures. They can point out flaws and errors in the charges mentioned on the bill and can identify instances of overcharging.
Their job is to lower your medical bill and negotiate with the healthcare provider on your behalf.
In order to find a medical bill advocate, get in touch with the Medical Billing Advocates of America.
If you are considering hiring a medical bill advocate, make sure you understand the fees that the advocate will charge. You want those fees to be less than the savings that they will win for you. That is the only way in which it will be worthwhile for you to go to a medical billing advocate.
If your income levels are low and you are given a substantial medical bill, then you may be eligible for an income-driven hardship plan.
This plan is similar to a payment plan whereby the bill is broken down into smaller monthly payments which are more affordable.
Sometimes, the amount of the bill is also negotiated down. One needs to ask the healthcare provider if such plans are offered by them.
Last resort when all else fails
If none of the above options work out, then you may have no other option but look for a personal unsecured loan. Such loans come with high interest rates and strict terms.
They are not recommended, but they might be the only option left for some people. Such personal loans can help organize your medical bill repayment into affordable monthly installments.
The key to finding the right personal loan is to shop around and compare the reputation and credibility of prospective loan providers.
You also need to find the provider with the lowest interest rates and the most favorable terms. There are many questionable companies operating in this space. So, picking the service with a decent track record is important.
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