6 Tips To Help You Navigate Unexpected Medical Bills You Can’t Afford
Don't let medical bills drag you into a deep financial pit.
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When you decide to do without medical insurance, you might as well get ready to face the consequences. Trust me, it can get ugly. Whether planned or not, medical care can cost quite a bit of money.
Paying medical bills in full becomes your sole responsibility once you do not have insurance; you have to take care of 100% of the cost by yourself. It is advisable to take a proactive approach when dealing with paying medical bills if you can't afford medical insurance. With the rate at which medical costs keep increasing, most people find it hard to afford medical care costs even with insurance.
It is very important to act fast, and with caution, when slapped with health care bills. Not doing so can lead towards terrible results such as bankruptcy.
Here are some tips to follow when you're hit with unexpected injuries, illnesses or other health crises, resulting in paying medical bills you can't afford:
1. Make Sure The Charges Are Accurate
Cross check and verify your healthcare bills. The electronic systems healthcare providers use is sometimes a mess and is prone to make mistakes, don't go stressing about bills that are not there. This is one of the reasons medical care gets so expensive.
Very common are scenarios where people are charged for medication they never took or services they did not receive. Billing mistakes happen all the time.
2. Don't Ignore Your Bills
Whatever you do, be sure to not ignore your medical bills. Ignoring medical bills has certain consequences. It puts your phone number on the healthcare center's speed dial, creating annoying phone calls at odd hours of the day. It also affects your credit score; your bills get sent to collections if you ignore them. To be on a safer side, do not ignore your medical care bills.
3. Don't Use Credit Cards To Pay Off Your Medical Bills
You might be tempted to pay off your medical bills in full with your credit card to get your doctor off your back, but my advice is to never pay off your medical bills with credit cards. You put yourself in so much debt when your credit card carries balances due to high-interest payments. For this, your credit score will take a hard hit. There are more chances to negotiate your never-ending medical bills — unlike other debts — as long as you're willing to commit to a setup payment plan that allows you to make smaller payments for a period of time, or at least pay something upfront. Unlike most other debts, health care payments also come with no or low interest.
4. Settle For An Interest-Free Payment Plan.
Yes, interest-free payment plans do exist, but NorthShore University HealthSystem Financial Counseling Manager Marcy Quattrochi says, "It's often written in the fine print on the statement." The amount you pay each month can be negotiable, depending on the hospital or the doctor's office. If the amount mentioned sounds too much for you, don't hesitate to talk them down.
But, if the money you owe is almost enough to pay what you owe in full, it makes more sense to try another option.
5. Ask For A Prompt Pay Discount
Depending on the doctor's office or hospital, you will be given a one-time discount to pay off your bill within 30 days in one lump sum. If you feel you were charged significantly, you are free to argue that you deserve a price reduction. But if you can't afford to pay anything at all, then it is advisable to apply for financial assistance.
6. Check Into Government-Funded Aid
Did you know programs like MedicAID and MediCARE were designed by the government to support low-income individuals and families who can't afford to pay their medical care bills? Your eligibility for these programs typically depend on your age, family size, income and disability status. Guidelines and processes differ with each state, and when filling an application, you'll have to do it through your local social service division to check your eligibility. If you qualify to get help through any of these programs, it can eliminate or reduce all your medical care costs.
Dealing with medical bills can be frustrating and stressful in addition to the medical illness or crisis you went through. But whatever you do, don't ignore your bills. It may not have any immediate consequences like gas or phone bills, but if you continue to delay, your details will be handed over to the collection agencies and then your scorecard gets the hit. Don't let medical bills drag you into a deep financial pit.