How To Get Assistance For Paying Medical Bills
Posted on December 4, 2020 in Debt
Medical bills can be a considerable expense that is often unexpected. Car accidents and serious illnesses can require emergency surgeries that are likely to have a massive hospital bill at the end of your stay, and the money you have stored in your savings account might not be enough to cover all the costs.
If you don’t have enough savings for this, you might need to get assistance with making payments. Luckily, there are several options that may be able to help.
Unexpected Costs of Medical Bills
Surprise medical bills can happen to anyone during emergency situations. Even if you try to send some of the expenses to your insurance company, some treatments are out-of-network and you don’t get to choose what kind of care you receive or where.
This can also happen if you see a physician and find out later that they do not take your health insurance. In 2017, 18% of people with health insurance plans through their employer had at least one out-of-network charge.
Out of pocket medical costs can be overwhelming to deal with, especially if they are for a loved one that you are responsible for.
What Happens To Unpaid Medical Bills?
If you don’t pay toward your medical debt it will likely go to a collections agency who will then contact you about paying your bill. This will show up on your credit report and affect you negatively, making you less likely to get approved for a loan or a credit card.
Around 43 million Americans have unpaid medical bills. You should never ignore your medical bills. Instead, you should develop a plan of action for paying them off.
So what do you do if you are unable to afford your medical bills? Let’s discuss the options.
Options to Help Make Medical Bills Easier
Some medical bills can be paid over a period of time instead of upfront. Sometimes the medical providers will charge you interest but not always. If you decide to use this method, you should make sure that the terms of your plan are clear. Get the plan in writing so that you can refer back to it as needed.
You can try to negotiate terms with the medical provider as well. Try to come to an agreement about what you can afford to pay every month. Many providers are willing to do this because you are agreeing to pay them periodically versus them having to track you down to get a payment.
If you can’t get a payment plan for your medical bills, you can apply for a loan. The interest on a loan would likely be lower than a credit card but this option should not be your first consideration.
You can go online and use a few different services to figure out the best personal loan option for you. You can narrow down the types of rates you are looking for and your loan term as well to find which one is most affordable and best fits your own financial situation.
Should You Use A Credit Card?
We wouldn’t recommend that you pay your medical expenses with a credit card. This may seem like a simple solution but it can lead to a never-ending cycle of debt for you. It can also negatively affect your credit score if you miss payments or have too many inquiries trying to get approved for a credit card.
The high interest on credit cards also makes it difficult to get ahead with your payments. You should look into alternative ways to help pay your medical bills, but this is always a last resort if needed.
If you are unsure how to handle your medical bills you can hire someone to assist you. A financial advisor can act as the liaison between the patient and the medical provider. Usually, these advisors will be able to document your financial information for the provider and help you understand what your options are. They can also help negotiate payment terms for you.
This allows you to focus on getting the help you need. When someone else is dealing with the details, you will be able to give all your attention to the treatment plan instead of the payment plan. Although this is another cost for you, it could ease a lot of your debt stress during what could be a very difficult time.
Financial Assistance Programs
One of the options for paying medical bills is getting debt relief assistance from the government or a nonprofit organization. You will need to check to see if you qualify for any of these programs.
Some assistance programs have certain income requirements for you to qualify for them. Medicaid is an option for people like this. It is a health care plan set up through the federal government to help you get coverage on your medical bills, though this is in fact a type of insurance and you need to have it before the fact, not after.
There are also nonprofit programs that can help with high medical bills. These are only available in certain states, so you will have to check to see if it applies to yours. You might even be able to contact the hospital for assistance programs. This is most common in nonprofit hospitals who sometimes can help reduce your medical bills.
Asking For Discounts
You can also try asking for a discount on your bill. As we mentioned before, medical providers are often more than willing to work with you if you just ask. Sometimes they are willing to lower the cost if it means that they can ultimately get paid. This is where having a financial advisor can come in handy so that you don’t have to deal with the providers yourself.
You might also be able to put a down payment on your bill in exchange for a reduced overall charge. If you can pay about 15% of your bill right away, you might be able to get the rest of the bill cut down by a substantial amount.
Filing For Bankruptcy
If you cannot figure out any possible way to pay your medical bills you may need to file for bankruptcy. This should be your absolute last resort after you’ve exhausted all of the other options.
If you decide to file for bankruptcy, your medical bills can be discharged or reduced. Bankruptcy with medical bills is a non-priority unsecured debt. This means that it can be forgiven. However, this can impact your credit for a long time.
Bankruptcy will show up on your credit report for several years. It will affect your ability to take out a mortgage or apply for a credit card. Before you decide to take this route, you should learn more about the process of filing for bankruptcy.
There are two types, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is based on means. Your income has to meet the requirements for this type of bankruptcy and your property might be liquidated. This process can take up to six months before your debts are forgiven.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy provides a plan for you to pay off your debt. The court will come up with monthly payments that you can afford for your debt. The plans are usually between 3-5 years long. This option can take years to complete and your debts are not forgiven.
While it’s important to try and put money aside ahead of time for emergencies like medical bills, there are options for financial assistance if you feel overwhelmed with the debt.
Dealing with medical bills can be stressful, especially if your personal finance situation wasn’t in the best state to start with. It can make you feel like you are drowning in debt and can never get out. This can be particularly hard to deal with if you just lost a loved one after a hospital stay.
Remember to do some research to find out what the best relief option is for you — oftentimes, one of the best things to do is try and work with the medical provider as they are more than likely to be willing to work with you.
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