There are many reasons why people struggle with medical debt. Some people are unable to work because they’re sick or injured. Others may not have any savings to help them weather an unforeseen medical emergency.
Unfortunately there are consequences for those who don’t pay their medical bills. Here are five of the biggest — and an overview of how to recover from them:
You Will Get Phone Calls
Companies will try to reach out for you to get the payment or work something out. Typically the companies will call your phone several times a week on a random number and not leave a voicemail; but it’s best to answer these calls because they can provide insight into what additional actions they may take if you don’t pay.
You’ll Receive Warning Letters
If phone calls are unsuccessful the medical facility may make a final effort before sending your account to collections; the letters usually contain information on the debt owed and when the charges were put onto your account. The letter will also note when your account will be sent to collections. There is typically a 180-day waiting period before your bill is sent to collection agencies, but it can happen anytime after 30 days.
Be sure to review the due date for your payment, and make any calls if you think the charges are incorrect. It is quite common for people to find billing errors that lead to more debt.
Your Bill Will Be Sent to Collections
Once your account has been sent to a collection agency they’ll either own the debt or not. If they don’t own your debt, then you can make payments to the original business.
If the collection agency ends up owning your debt you’ll have to go through them to get your medical bills taken care of. Collection agencies can come after you for up to six years after the last payment was made; not paying collections could result in you being sued. Also, once your account has been sent to collections, the medical facility has the right to refuse treatment and office visits until you pay.
Your Credit Score Will Dip
When you don’t pay your medical bills, your credit score can be negatively impacted for years. A low credit score results in higher interest rates for your credit cards and loans. Not having a good credit score from unpaid medical bills may also put you at risk of getting your cell phone contract canceled. You could also get denied from a job too; this is because many companies run credit history checks.
You Could Be Sued
When all else fails, companies may try to recover the debt by suing you for wage garnishments. The good news is you can’t be sent to prison for being unable to make payments. Ironically, going to court can be beneficial, as sometimes the court and the plaintiff may agree to accept payment via an interest-free payment plan.
The Next Steps
If your medical bills are piling up, then it’s important to take a step back and get organized. Check the charges on those bills to verify that they’re accurate and up-to-date.
What you shouldn’t do is ignore your bills and pretend they don’t exist.
If you can’t pay, then contact the company and try to set up a payment plan. Many people recommend using MedicareWire.com for financial assistance in times of need; this site can help you find medical insurance coverage and pay for part of your prescription costs.
Of course, you can also get help by applying for a personal loan. And always be sure to check out potential government resources that may be available for you.
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