There is no easy solution to high medical debt. Even though you likely have health insurance, there are high costs that are easy to rack up if you need medical care, especially if it is an emergency. But when the option is incurring a high amount of debt, or not getting healthy, the debt is certainly easier to manage.
Unfortunately, medical debt is the thorn in many Americans’ sides. In fact, according to USA Today, medical debt was the largest cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. as of 2013. The total was about 1.7 million people who lived in households undergoing a bankruptcy claim due to health costs.
So before you start panicking about your high bills, know that you aren’t alone. This is not a situation in which people are unaware or unsympathetic. Medical debt is a real problem, but this also means there are options.
If your medical debt is holding you back, then consider the following tips for getting back on track:
Check the charges
Before you do anything drastic, such as filing for bankruptcy or taking out a short-term loan to pay your medical bills off, make sure the charges on your bill are correct. You might be thinking that this is an impractical possibility, but mistakes are made all the time. In fact, the Medical Billing Advocates of America noted that 8 out of 10 hospital bills have mistakes.
Chances are these mistakes aren’t going to be massive, but even little things add up. Your bill might say you were administered a particular drug that you weren’t, and maybe that medication is expensive. The bottom line is to make sure your bill is correct before you start figuring out a way to pay it back.
It is understandable to assume that your medical bills are set in stone, but this is not the case. According to U.S. News & World Report, medical industry professionals, whether doctor or insurance provider, are willing to discuss and haggle over medical bills. While it is unlikely that you can just call and ask for your bill to be lowered and it will happen, there are ways to go abut it. For example, if you do some research online and find other prices for what your bills include, you can ask them to match the prices.
But also, if you call and are honest and try to work out a situation, you have nothing to lose.
Sometimes the old fashioned method of just taking debt head on is the best route. If you are able to negotiate a price that you can afford every month, then stick to it. Put a budget in place so you can make each monthly payment. Without a budget, keeping up with any bills, let alone medical bills, will be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
When putting your budget together, you need to be realistic. While numbers look good on a page, actions are what counts. So plan accordingly, and if this means some of your daily coffees or movie rentals have to be scaled back, then so be it.
Take it seriously
Medical debt won’t just go away, and not paying it down because you are stressed about it, or putting it off until you can think of a better solution is not the way to go about it. As soon as you receive your first bill you need to react accordingly. Begin putting your plan together right then, which should include reviewing your bill and calling the insurance company right away.
The longer you put off your debt the worse it will be for you. Not keeping up with your medical bills will hurt your credit score, which is difficult to repair if you get in too deep. Likewise, not keeping up with medical debt causes many Americans to choose bankruptcy, which you want to use as a last resort.
What it comes down to is you must be real with your situation. You must accept the fact that you have this debt and put a plan in place to pay it back.