Many people aren’t prepared for medical emergencies. Imagine if you had some health issues and had to have several medical procedures. Then you get hit with thousands of dollars in medical bills. You call your insurance company just to find out they won’t cover the costs… If this has happened to you, you’re not alone.
What’s your first instinct when it comes to outstanding bills? If you’re like most people, you’re going to want to avoid having to acknowledge them because you feel ashamed because you can’t afford them. Once you start avoiding their phone calls, the collection agencies start calling you.
It’s scary to think that one in four Americans have medical debt, and one and three have to delay treatment because of the debt. Like all debt, the longer you wait to pay it off or speak to someone about it, the more stressful it becomes. If this describes you, there are different things you can do to deal with the outstanding bills.
Talk To The Hospital To See If You Qualify For Help
All nonprofit hospitals are required by federal law to have a program that offers financial assistance. This program helps people with low incomes afford medical treatment. If you qualify, it can cut your bill in half or forgive it entirely. When you apply for this type of assistance, you will have to have proof of your income. The types of proof you can show are check stubs, tax returns, or other financial documents. Even if your hospital is not a nonprofit, they still may offer some type of program; It’s always worth checking.
Talk to a Lawyer
Filing bankruptcy is something no one wants to do, in most cases, because of its adverse effects on their credit. But sometimes you may have no other choice. If you have tried everything else and you still can’t come to an agreement, this may be right for you. It’s better than having collection companies sending you letters and harassing you throughout the day.
Now, it’s also important to note that not all instances of talking to a lawyer are all bad. If you qualify, and depending on the circumstances of your medical debt, talking to a lawyer can actually help you get compensated for the injuries you’ve suffered. For example, one excellent alternative is those in the military. Many soldiers who were in active combat suffered hearing loss due to using 3M Earplugs and are seeking compensation for injuries. These cases have helped many military vets overcome financial hardships associated with their health issues from serving.
Talk to A Community Health Advisor
Most people haven’t heard of community health advisors, much less what they do. Health advisors play a critical role in helping people navigate medical-related issues. They can help you settle medical debts, go over your bills with you, and do many other things. Here are a few of them you can consult with a health advisor about.
- Medical treatment plans
- Go over your bill for duplicate charges
- Help to lower your bill
- Help you look for charities to help you
- End of life planning
Negotiate your Bill
Hospitals work with insurance companies and charge them a much lower rate. You can ask them if they will do the same with you. Often if it means not waiting for their money for years, they will agree to this. What they charge you for the procedure can be double what they would an insurance company.
When you call, you want to speak with the billing manager. This is the person who can lower your bill. Do this as soon as you find out about the bill instead of waiting months. If you wait and it ends up in collections, it can really damage your credit score.
Go over your bill to make sure you were billed correctly. You can also compare the bill to other hospitals to see if their prices are comparable. If not, you can talk with the billing manager to see if they can match the prices.
Some hospitals will also negotiate with you. Say you can’t pay your entire bill, but you can pay a percentage of it. Ask if you can pay the lump sum now for a discount. Or if they would be willing to write off the rest. They may not say yes, but it never hurts to ask and it could save you a lot of money if they do.
There’s no doubt dealing with medical bills is stressful and something no one wants to do. But it is something that needs to be handled as soon as you get the bill. Most hospitals are happy to work with you. If the hospital doesn’t work with you, other options are available, such as a community health advisor, various charities, and specialty services like the consulting with an experienced lawyer.