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What Are Your Options If You Can't Pay Medical Bills

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May 08, 2020

There are a lot of reasons you might have big medical bills. One example is being injured in a car accident. You could also get an illness, such as a chronic disorder or be in some other type of accident, aside from a car accident.

Medical bills can be thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, even if you have insurance.

Depending on the situation, such as may be the case in a car accident, if another person is at-fault, then your medical bills may be covered by their insurance company.

Outside of that scenario, what options are available to you if you can't pay your medical bills? What should you know about effectively dealing with medical debt? It can be a significant burden on your personal finances, but options are available.

Don't Ignore the Bills

First and foremost, don't make the mistake of ignoring medical bills.

If you do, it can significantly and negatively affect your credit score.

According to Experian, there are more than 64 million Americans with a medical bill in collections listed on their credit report.

Even though the thought facing medical bills head-on might be intimidating, it is important to avoid long-term financial damage.

Go Over Your Bills Carefully

Just because you receive a medical bill, don't assume that it's automatically correct. The Medical Billing Advocates of America group estimates that 8 in 10 hospital bills have errors.

You should always ask providers for an itemized bill, and then you should go over it to ensure you did receive all of the services listed.

If you have insurance, you need to compare the listed items on your bill with what's in your explanation of benefits statement.

If you do see there are things that aren't correct or accurate, contact your medical provider right away.

You may also find that your insurance didn't cover things that should have been, and if that's the case, you can file an appeal with your insurance provider.

Too often, people assume their medical bills are correct or don't think that filing an appeal with their insurance provider will do any good, and that's just not the case.

Negotiate

Once you've gone through your medical bills and made sure they're correct, you can attempt to negotiate with providers.

Hospitals often have programs that will allow them to help lower-income patients reduce their bills.

If you'd like to attempt to negotiate on your bill, you should ensure you're speaking as soon as possible to the person who has the ability to lower your bill.

This is usually the provider's billing manager.

Hardship assistance programs are available not only to low-income people but to people who are facing hardship only because of their medical bills.

Even if you can't show financial hardship, another negotiating tactic is to compare the billed prices to the average price of that service in your area.

Some medical billing managers are more likely to accept negotiations if you agree to pay a percentage upfront and right away. Even if you can only pay 30%, and then the billing manager writes off the rest, if you can afford it, it can be a good option.

Ask for a Payment Plan

Even if you negotiate your total medical bills down, you may still have a large amount to pay.

Beyond negotiating what's owed, you can also ask about a payment plan. Most medical payment plans don't charge interest.

Try Not to Use Credit Cards If Possible

While it is important to pay off your medical bills, using credit cards to do so might not be the best option.

If you use credit cards, because of high interest rates, you may just find that you're in a never-ending cycle of debt.

The better option than using credit cards is to do what's listed above—ask for a payment plan and preferably one with no interest.

Beyond a credit card, the last option for repaying medical debt should be a loan.

A loan may have a lower interest rate than a credit card, but still, it's just not a good financial choice to deal with medical debt.

Medical debt can be overwhelming and difficult to do deal with, but it's something many people face.

Don't ignore it and hope it will go away. Instead, be strategic and come up with a plan of working with the provider to make it something you can manage.

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Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. oXYGen Financial is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS do not provide tax or legal advice.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor regarding your individual situation.

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Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. oXYGen Financial is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS do not provide tax or legal advice.

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