According to a 2019 study published by the American Journal of Public Health, 66.5% of bankruptcies are caused by medical expenses or loss of work due to medical problems. Medical issues and related debt are one of the top reasons why people file for bankruptcy.
While it’s stressful to deal with mounting medical bills, there are some ways to pay the medical bills you can’t afford.
Ask for an itemized bill
Medical bills can sometimes contain errors, so patients should ask for an itemized bill and double-check for accuracy. Review the bill for duplicate items and services you didn’t receive or recognize. Also, make sure that your insurance covered all applicable charges.
This can take some time to investigate, but pointing out errors could save you a significant amount of money.
Negotiate your bill
Many people are unaware that they can negotiate with a healthcare provider’s medical billing manager. For example, some providers are willing to provide discounts for an upfront payment. Even if you can’t pay the full amount, some providers may still offer a discount if you make a large payment. It’s always worth advocating for yourself and negotiating.
Another option is to ask if the medical provider can provide a discount similar to what Medicaid or Medicare pays.
Finally, use resources like Healthcare Bluebook or Fair Health Consumer to research what other doctors and hospitals in your area are charging for the same services. If you believe you were overcharged, you can use this information to help negotiate your medical bill.
If you can’t negotiate a bill, try asking about payment plans. Other providers may have plans like an interest-free payment plan. You’ll want to negotiate a payment plan that makes sense for your budget.
Ask for financial assistance options
Nonprofit hospitals are required by law to have a financial assistance policy for patients who meet certain criteria and are unable to pay for services. Your medical provider should provide information about financial assistance.
Even if you didn’t go to a nonprofit hospital, many other medical providers have financial assistance options. You may want to call and ask about these options.
Ask Medicaid to make retroactive payments
If you qualify for Medicaid, ask if you are eligible for coverage on past medical bills. This could be an option if you are Medicaid-eligible when your bills become due. Calling a local representative can help determine if this is a viable option for you.
Submit a complaint
The No Surprises Act enacted in 2022 protects patients from unexpected medical bills from out-of-network providers. If you don’t have health insurance, medical providers should provide a “good faith” estimate before you receive care. If the estimate is off by more than $400, you may be able to dispute the charges.
Discuss options with a personal credit repair consultant
Not paying your medical bills can lead to a poor credit score, but you can minimize the hit to your credit score by proactively managing your medical debt. If you have other debt, like credit card debt, it can be difficult to manage it all.
Improve Credit LLC offers credit counseling and credit repair services. We review your current financial situation and provide you with a personalized plan to manage your debt and credit. Get started today by requesting a free analysis.