All it takes is one health crisis or accident and you could find yourself drowning in medical bills and debt. The costs can be outrageous, and it may feel like you have no options.
5 Tips for Paying Down Medical Debt
Health insurance is expensive. And even if you have good health insurance, an expensive procedure or chronic health condition can quickly cause rack up thousands of dollars in medical debt.
If you find yourself in a situation where you owe more than you can currently pay, ignoring the debt is not an option. It’s not like these bills are just going to disappear. But knowing where to start can be challenging. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of the top ways you can pay down medical debt and remove this burden from your life.
1. Ensure Accurate Billing
Any time you receive a medical bill, the very first thing you need to do is look it over and make sure you understand what it says. These bills can be complicated, and you shouldn’t take everything at face value. If you need more clarity, it’s perfectly within your rights to ask for an itemized bill.
“Plus, you should always check medical bills for errors, double billing, medications you didn’t receive and the wrong room rates,” Abby Hayes writes for U.S. News & World Report. “These errors happen more often than you think and can add up to extra money tacked on to your bill.”
2. Negotiate Bills
Believe it or not, everything is negotiable in this industry. Hospitals hate dealing with unpaid debt and get frustrated when they have to take something to collections. It usually ends up costing them way more money than it’s worth. If you’re willing to go back and forth with your healthcare provider, you may be able to get a lower payment.
Debt negotiation isn’t easy. It’ll take some time, effort, and discipline. Not only do you need to talk to the right people – those who actually have the authority to lower your bill – but you may need to provide documentation to support the claim that you can’t pay.
Melanie Lockert, founder of Dear Debt, once had a $1,600 medical bill completely forgiven. Though, she admits the process took a while.
“I was grateful that they covered everything,” Lockert says, “but I did have to hand over a lot of information: bank statements, tax info, pay stubs, and any other documentation to help my case. It took about two months for me to get the letter saying that everything was covered.”
3. Find Assistance
While you may not be in a situation where you qualify, there are a number of private and public financial assistance programs that help people pay off medical debt.
For example, if you’re living at or below the poverty line, the hospital may have a program in place to help you out. If you have other extenuating circumstances, local churches, national charities, or billing assistance programs could come to the rescue. Explore each of these options to learn more.
4. Take Out an Installment Loan
Perhaps you’ve successfully negotiated your bills down to a reasonable figure, but still can’t pay them off. One option is to take out a personal installment loan.
“With an installment loan, you can borrow a lump sum to wipe out your medical debts. You’ll pay back the borrowed amount and interest with regular payments (or installments) over a fixed period of time,” RISE explains.
5. Tighten Up Your Budget
A lot of people think they can’t pay down medical debt, when they’re actually just mismanaging their money. If you don’t currently have a written monthly budget, you need one. By putting pen to paper and figuring out exactly where your money is going, you can reduce spending and put that money towards the debt.
A Brighter Financial Future Awaits
There is a future beyond medical debt. While it may seem all-consuming at the moment, a proactive strategy for negotiating and paying down this debt will give you the opportunity to once again enjoy the freedom of financial security.
Now’s the time to start chipping away.