5 Tips For Dealing With Your Medical Debt

by Jason on May 3, 2010

This was a post I did for ChristianPF several months ago regarding assistance with medical debt.

Doesn’t it seem like a check-up and a physical will have your wallet screaming for mercy these days?

It doesn’t require major surgery to rack up a pile of medical debt.

At some point, some of us might even deal with a major health issue that requires exams, scans, check-ups and surgery and a big pile of medical debt to boot.

Hopefully your health insurance provider will pick up the majority of the costs, but what do you do about the remaining amount that you owe?

Or worse – what if you don’t have insurance?

Here are five quick tips on dealing with your medical debt:

Medical Debt Tip #1 – Check for Errors

Let’s face it, we all make mistakes.  I know what you’re thinking – why does it seem like insurance companies make more errors than the rest of us?

There may be some truth in that, but the fact of the matter is that you should be double checking your debt and records anyways.

Inevitably you will come across some errors that may be piling up your medical bills more than necessary.

Checking for errors could save you hundreds of dollars.

Medical Debt Tip #2 – Check Your Attitude

I have a tendency to get fired up when I find an error or when I find out I have to pay something that I thought the insurance was covering.

A while back, I had gone to the same doctor twice in one month and as I was checking out after the second appointment, the nurse politely asked me to pay a portion of the bill.

I could feel the tension rise as I wondered why the insurance company hadn’t paid for this.

What would get accomplished if I ripped into the nurse and told her I wouldn’t pay!?  Not much.

But, don’t we all get like that to a degree sometimes when we think something is being paid for but realize it’s not (don’t leave me hangin’ here!)

The best thing to do when an error is uncovered – or you get word that you are on the hook for a portion of the medical bill is to be humble and gracious.

This can apply to all areas of life – things are more likely to be resolved with an attitude of humility rather than making sure everyone knows you are upset!

Medical Debt Tip # 3 – Apply for Medical Financial Aid

This is a new one to me.

I didn’t realize there was medical financial aid for until a friend of mine mentioned they applied and used it to help pay their medical debt when they had their baby.

There are certain guidelines that must be met (income levels, percentage of debt to income etc.).

But many times even if they don’t pay 100% of the debt they may pay a big chunk.

Often, if your medical debt-to-income ratio is over 30%, the hospital will give medical financial aid.

Put it this way – every little bit helps!

So if you can get any portion of the medical debt wiped out through Medical Financial Aid go for it!

Find out if the hospital has a financial aid department and give them a phone call or a visit to request an application.

You’ll need to list all your assets and income so they can make a determination.

Medical Debt Tip #4 – Call to Negotiate a Discount

I’m amazed at how many people don’t do this.  Is it because we feel uncomfortable asking for things?

Do we feel awkward and bad?

Give the insurance company, hospital or doctor a call, speak to the billing department (remembering #2 above) and ask them for a discount on your medical debt.

If it’s a smaller bill and you can afford to pay it off – give them a call first to ask if they will give you a discount if you pay the bill off in full.

Many times they will apply some percentage off the bill.

I heard a story recently that someone who required emergency surgery racked up about $5,000 worth of medical debt.

After calling the doctors and sharing their story, they agreed to reduce the bill down to $200!

Not every story will be like that, but the point is don’t be afraid to negotiate your medical debt – you never know until you ask.

Medical Debt Tip #5 – Ask For a Payment Plan

If you can’t pay your medical debt off in full, the last step is to ask for a payment plan.

Many doctors and hospitals will put you on some sort of plan to pay a regular amount monthly until it’s paid off.

This is better than being sent to collections and better than a sharp stick in the eye.

Get on the payment plan and pay your bills on time!

After six months or so of paying on time, repeat steps 2 & 4 to see if you can get a discount again.  You never know until you ask!

Good health is priceless, but inevitably we’ll all deal with some medical debt during our lifetime.

Remembering these tips will help ease that medical debt burden when that time comes!

What Are Your Thoughts?

Readers, what other tips would you have for dealing with medical debt?

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