Paying off medical debt can be one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face. But you’re not alone. High medical bills are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. Between 50 and 60 percent of Americans filing bankruptcy cite medical costs as a main or contributing factor.
The simple truth is that most of us will face seeking debt relief for medical care at some point in our lives. An extended hospital stay or specialized medical procedures can cause bills to stack up. Even routine healthcare at your doctor’s office can eat a hole in your wallet.
So, what are the best ways to pay off medical debt without running into future financial problems? Avoid these medical debt mistakes to pay off the funds over time.
Relying On Your Health Insurance
Many people assume that their insurance will cover the costs of their treatment. But unfortunately, most insurance plans only cover part of your medical care. It is vital that you never assume your insurance will cover everything.
Once you have your hospital bill, compare it with your insurance plan’s explanation of benefits. If there has been a mistake, you may be able to resubmit the bill to your insurer to have an item covered.
Once you know what your insurance will pay, it is your responsibility to know what you have to pay out of pocket. This level of attention to detail will ensure that your bill is paid promptly and nothing is sent to a collection agency.
Accepting Medical Bills at Face Value
When you get a medical bill, your first reaction is probably to open it and then start to panic. You likely ask yourself how on earth your treatment could possibly have cost so much.
The good news is that you have the right to ask. Patients can challenge the amount they are billed for care. The easiest and best way to do this is to ask for an itemized bill. Hospitals are obligated to provide itemized medical bills upon request.
So how does an itemized bill change things? When a patient is billed for their care, providers, hospital administration, and medical billing facilities all contribute. With that many cooks in the kitchen, so to say, mistakes can happen.
An itemized bill may help you spot duplicate charges, items that should be covered by your insurance, or other mistakes. This simple request could save you a significant amount of money.
Not Talking to a Variety of Resources
When you receive a medical bill, take advantage of all the resources available to you. Consult with the medical billing company as well as your insurance company. You can also find resources through patient advocates or member services.
Consulting with these departments may introduce you to a variety of resources, payment plans, and other ways to make sure your bill is paid as quickly as possible. They might also point you in the direction of other resources you didn’t know about.
Neglecting Payment Options
Remember that you do not have to pay a medical bill in a lump sum. Most billing departments provide a variety of payment plans.
But you may have to do a little research to find out which payment option is best for you. Ask for information on payment plans, especially ones for low-income patients. You may qualify for financial assistance.
There may also be options for 0% interest credit cards. Bear in mind, however, that you may not qualify for this interest rate. It’s also a good idea to learn about medical debt and how it differs from something like credit card debt.
Explore other options like personal loans or charity care for especially high medical bills.
If your bill has already been sent to debt collectors for non-payment, you can still explore your options. Negotiation is possible when it comes to medical billing departments. It is all a matter of self-advocacy and finding out what options you have for monthly payments.
Not Being Aware of Debt Collection
The collections department is not just something that happens when you don’t pay medical bills at all. You may also have to deal with it if you miss payments or don’t comply with your payment plan.
For this reason, you might be surprised to receive a notice that your bill has been sent to collections even if you have been making payments.
It is important to remain aware of the state of your bill to make sure you don’t have to deal with the collections department and the effect on your credit score. The long-term effects on your credit report can be devastating.
Putting Off Making a Payment Plan
One of the worst things that you can do is putting off your medical bills. Even if you can’t afford to pay the full amount, set up a payment plan right away. Ignoring your bills is a quick way to forget them altogether.
Quick action also makes it easier for hospitals and billing departments to access your records and provide an accurate statement. Be as proactive as possible. Ask about interest-free payment plans. Avoiding a task only makes it more complicated.
Not Exploring Your Options Beforehand
If at all possible, do some shopping around before you receive your care. Obviously, in some cases like medical emergencies, you don’t necessarily have a say in where you are treated. But if you can, compare healthcare providers before starting treatment.
Bear in mind that options like nonprofit hospitals are also available in some areas.
This kind of advance planning is extremely helpful when it comes to planning ahead for your medical expenses.
To recap, there are six common mistakes that people make when it comes to paying off medical debt. So what are the solutions to them?
- Challenge your bill and ask for an itemized bill to submit to health insurers
- Talk to a variety of billing departments and other resources like medical billing advocates
- Research payment options
- Make regular payments in accordance with your payment plan
- Make a payment plan as soon as you are billed
- If possible, explore your medical provider options in advance
By avoiding these mistakes and utilizing the solutions, you can avoid long term medical debt and financial difficulty.