Medical expenses can be unexpected and overwhelming, even if you have health insurance. If you're facing a mountain of medical debt, there are many ways to get help with your bills and reduce your financial stress.
Here are some proven and effective ways to negotiate, reduce, or, depending on your circumstances, get your medical bills forgiven altogether.
Resolve $10,000 or more of your debt
Credit card debt is suffocating. It constantly weighs on your mind and controls every choice you make. You can end up emotionally and even physically drained from it. And even though you make regular payments, it feels like you can never make any progress because of the interest.
National Debt Relief could help you resolve your credit card debt with an affordable plan that works for you. Just tell them your situation, then find out your debt relief options.
How to get National Debt Relief to help you resolve your debt: Sign up for a free debt assessment here. (Do not skip this step!) By signing up for a free assessment, National Debt Relief can assist you in settling your debt, but only if you schedule the assessment.
File an appeal if you're denied coverage
Before accepting a medical bill, review your insurance coverage carefully. If a claim is denied, don't hesitate to file an appeal. Insurance companies can make errors, and appealing a denial might lead to coverage for a portion or all of your medical expenses.
Some insurance companies are notorious for denying coverage to make money, so don't get caught off guard by their tactics and loopholes.
Review your bill carefully
Medical bills can be complex, and mistakes are not uncommon. Examine your bill carefully, checking for duplicate charges, wrong billing codes, or services you didn't receive.
If you find discrepancies, contact your health care provider's billing department and let them know.
If you find the language confusing, ask for a plain-language explanation to demystify anything that isn't clear.
Hire a medical bills advocate
If you find the billing process overwhelming or confusing, consider hiring a medical bills advocate.
These pros specialize in navigating the health care billing system and can help you understand your bills, negotiate with providers, and ensure you're not being overcharged.
While an advocate generally charges around $100 an hour or a percentage of the amount you may save, it can be worth the money if you’re facing a lot of debt after an extended hospital stay. Just be careful to hire a reputable company to avoid predatory scammers.
Don't let home repairs drain your bank account
Did you know if your air conditioner stops working, your homeowner’s insurance won’t cover it? Same with plumbing, electrical issues, appliances, and more. Not being able to make repairs could leave you in a bad situation — but a home warranty could protect you against surprise expenses.
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Try to negotiate the price
Health care providers and hospitals may be open to negotiation. They understand that bills can be hard to pay and often would rather receive something than nothing. So, don't hesitate to discuss your financial situation and request a reduction in your medical bill.
If you're uninsured, you can try asking them to charge what the insured price would be. That may deter them from billing you the maximum possible fees.
Know Your Rights Under the No Surprises Act
Introduced in 2022, this act protects you from surprise medical bills for out-of-network emergency care. This legislation means you're only responsible for in-network costs, even if you get treatment from an out-of-network provider in an emergency.
If you're uninsured, you're entitled to a good-faith estimate before receiving treatment. If you're charged more, file a dispute.
Seek help from a charity
Many charities and non-profit foundations offer financial assistance to folks struggling with medical bills. Do your research and contact these organizations to see if you qualify for aid based on your income and medical condition.
This may be especially helpful for those dealing with cancer treatment co-pays, catastrophic illnesses, or a sick child.
Apply for assistance through hospital hardship plan
Hospitals — especially non-profit or charitable institutions — often have financial assistance programs if you're dealing with hardship. These programs can help lower your medical bill or possibly wipe it out altogether in some cases, depending on your financial situation.
Contact your hospital's billing department and ask about their assistance options, even if they're for-profit.
Set up a payment plan
It may turn out that you are indeed stuck paying some or all of a medical bill. If you can't pay it in full upfront, request a payment plan from your provider. That may allow you to pay off your debt over time, and perhaps even interest-free.
Even if your bill runs into the thousands, hospitals are still willing to negotiate so they get as much compensation as possible. It may take years, but it's doable.
Research medical credit cards
Some credit cards are specifically designed for medical expenses. They may have low or no-interest financing for a specified period. However, be careful and read the fine print to ensure you won't wind up with high interest rates once the promotional period ends.
Note that this option will impact your credit score, so carefully research the best credit cards for paying medical bills.
Apply for a low-interest credit card
If you can't find a payment plan or a medical credit card that works for you, consider applying for a low-interest credit card. Transferring your medical debt to a card like this can help you pay it off more easily.
Make sure you don't use this card for anything other than medical expenses. You don't want to muddy the waters for tax-deductible expenses.
Take out a personal loan
Personal loans from banks or online lenders can be used to consolidate and pay off medical debt. They often come with fixed interest rates and predictable monthly payments, making it easier to budget for repayment.
Like a regular credit card, this option should only be used if you're not able to set up a payment plan or have no other avenues to pursue.
Know your debt collection rights
Understanding your rights is crucial when dealing with medical debt collectors. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act outlines your rights, including protection against harassment and unfair practices.
Get to know these rights to avoid abusive debt-collection tactics and intimidation. This is especially important if your debt has been transferred from the original provider to a third-party debt collector.
Protect your credit score
Medical debt can’t be reported to credit bureaus by collectors until they have attempted to collect the debt from you. Typically, collectors may expect you to settle the bill without question.
You’re well within your rights to challenge unfair claims and negotiate, but medical debt can negatively impact your credit score if left unpaid.
Beware of scammers
Unfortunately, there are scammers who target folks with medical debt. Be careful of unsolicited calls, texts, or emails offering to settle your debt for a fee.
Always verify the legitimacy of any offer and never share sensitive information like payment information with unknown people.
You'll know if you're dealing with a legit credit counselor, as they won't press you for money upfront or make you feel pressured.
Managing medical debt can be challenging, but with a few proactive steps, you can handle the burden. Remember to stand up for yourself, explore all available options, and ask for help when you need it.
Seniors must be cautious to avoid wasting money on medical debt more often simply because their health is more vulnerable than other adults'. So, if you’re enjoying your golden years, be especially mindful of your medical money management.