Medical bills within the United States have climbed to shocking heights. Where in the past medical bills were more affordable, now they can be difficult for people to afford even with great health insurance. And it doesn’t just take a severe illness or major trauma to put you into serious medical debt. For example, a routine complication-free birth in the hospital can cost five figures — sometimes even with health insurance.
Furthermore, even young and perfectly healthy people can be seriously injured through no fault of their own. Consider the fact that 3 million people are injured every year in car accidents on American roads. cliche as it may seem, you could be hit by a car when crossing the street, and your medical treatment won’t be free.
For many people the issue is a matter of managing medical debt. It doesn’t have to overpower you. Here are some important steps you should take the moment you’re hit with a major medical bill:
1. Verify The Charges
Many of us are told to simply accept bills without question; and indeed, if you’re hit with a particularly large bill, you may be so overwhelmed that you don’t take the time to double-check it. While most of the time the charges will be accurate, hospital billing departments aren’t without error. Among the most common mistakes that can occur are charges with procedures you never underwent, or medications you never received. You may also be charged a full day’s rate for a hospital stay when you in fact checked out in the morning. So double-check everything; and if anything seems questionable, do question it openly.
2. Stay On Top of Your Bills
While it may be tempting to ignore the bills, this can have severe consequences. You’ll not only be plagued with quite a few annoying phone calls from collections, but your credit score may also take a serious hit. Your credit score determines whether or not you’re able to take out a loan, and sometimes even rent an apartment or house. And if you’re faced with more medical bills down the road, skipping out on a major bill when you’re younger could affect your payment options in the future. That’s important considering that four out of five older adults will struggle with at least one chronic condition, like heart disorders, arthritis, or osteoporosis — and half will battle at least two.
3. Don’t Rely On Credit Cards
It may be tempting for you to pay off your medical bills with credit cards, but credit cards come with high interest rates — which means that you’ll be paying more over time than you would if you just paid them off directly out of your own pocket. You’ll also negatively impact your credit score. You actually have more room for negotiations with medical bills than you do with other bills. As a result, you may be able to negotiate smaller payments.
4. See If You Can Negotiate An Interest-Free Payment Plan
By negotiating a payment plan for your medical bills, you can potentially get a plan that is interest-free. So look at your medical bill statement to see if that option is permitted. Even if it’s not, it’s worth negotiating for no interest payments because you have leverage; after all, it’s up to you to make the payments, and they would rather have your money in increments than not at all. If you are able to pay you bill in one lump sum, you may also be able to get a discount.
5. Look For Financial Aid
There is no shame in seeking out financial assistance to help pay for your medical bills. For example, the original Medicare often has clients paying 20% of a lot of bills, which means that there is no limit on how much you’ll spend. Medicare Advantage recipients actually benefit from a cap on out-of-pocket spending. A lot of what you end up dealing with depends on your medical plan. However, financial assistance programs can help you get out from underneath the weight of your bills. Some hospitals require that you apply for Medicaid first, after which you can see if the hospital itself has a financial assistance program. Essentially, hospitals would take into account your financial records before determining a discount of some kind.
There are many reasons why you may end up dealing with medical debt — so you need to be careful about considering benefits options whenever you begin a new job, or buy a new health insurance policy outright. Every year, the health insurance marketplace is open from November 1 to December 15.
The important thing to remember is that having a good insurance plan is the first step to take before a health problem begins.
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