6 steps to find help paying down your medical debt
Around 43 million Americans have medical debt on their credit, and those debts make up almost half of all overdue debt in America. If you, too, are drowning in medical debt, try these tips to get help to pay your medical bills.
1. Face it head-on
Burying your head in the sand in hopes that the bills will just disappear is not helpful. The truth is that avoiding these debts can hurt your credit and your future. Most often, as long as you pay on your debts, they do not even make it onto your credit report. If they do, it reflects positively.
Medical debt is a bit different. If the full amount due is not paid off within 90 days, they sell the debts to collection agencies. Debt collectors waste no time reporting to the credit bureaus, so face it head-on. The faster the debt is resolved, the less it affects your credit and the fewer frustrating phone calls you have to deal with.
2. Assess the debt
There are many reasons billing mistakes occur. The codes may be written illegibly, the billing specialist might input the wrong services, the patient may provide inaccurate information or any number of other reasons. The bottom line is that almost 80 percent of medical bills include at least one error.
Take a look at your bills and analyze the information. Ensure that the debt is truly yours and that there are no charges for services you did not receive. If you come across any discrepancies, contact the health care provider’s office as soon as possible.
Ask the billing office for an itemized statement that will show you exactly what you are being charged for. From this point forward, get confirmation of services you receive while at the hospital. As soon as your bill comes in, you can compare it to your statement and dispute any false information.
3. Speak to your care provider
Talk to the hospital’s business office about your bill. Some hospitals have financial assistance programs that will help if you meet certain income requirements. In fact, federal law states that nonprofit hospitals must provide families with low-income assistance that either discounts or erases the charges.
Some privately owned and for-profit hospitals offer similar programs by choice. Reach out to the hospital to see if you qualify. If not, they may still offer you discounts or work out an affordable payment plan with you.
4. Seek government assistance
In addition to any institution provided financial assistance, consider applying for Medicaid and other government insurance. Though it is not always the case, Medicaid will sometimes pay your medical bills from the previous three months. At the very least, if you are approved, your medical debts will not increase as you should not incur any further charges.
5. Reach out to your community
There are government grants and some private funding that is made available specifically for help with medical bills. Ask around about any place in your community that might help. Try public and private nonprofit groups, your church, or other churches in your area. Even if they do not offer assistance themselves, they likely know someone who does.
6. Look for specialized nonprofit groups
Depending on what your medical bills are for, there may be a specialized group that can help you. For instance, the American Cancer Society often provides assistance to cancer patients. Children’s hospitals typically offer assistance to patients and their families, as well. If you suffer from an ongoing health issue, look for a foundation dedicated to that illness.
Though there are organizations that want to help, they do not typically advertise these services. Doing so might result in the funds going to undeserving people. The help is out there, though, if you are willing to look for it. The sooner you take care of it, the brighter your financial future will look.