In the US, medical debt has become a significant source of stress and hopelessness. It has left people in large financial holes, and the prospect of sky-high bills has even led to individuals avoiding medical treatment when needed.
According to a recent survey, 79 million Americans are suffering with the problem of paying off their medical bills or debt. The causes for this sad situation are numerous. The lack of adequate health insurance coverage is one, while health care costs continue to rise at an alarming rate.
If you are faced with medical debt, consult this quick guide for advice on how to stop it from ruining your life.
Never ignore medical bills
First of all, it’s vital that you don’t simply ignore your medical bills and hope they will disappear. This is a simple point on the surface, but there’s a surprising amount of people that choose to turn a blind eye to their bills.
Doing this has consequences, obviously. It could lead to your bills being sold to debt collectors, and they will become aggressive in their attempts to get the outstanding money from you. Ultimately, it could end with a lawsuit that sends your debt into an even bigger financial hole and in some cases might even cause you to fall into a medical bankruptcy.
However, with professional assistance for a consumer protection related lawsuit such as medical debt, you will be able to see it through to the other side. Your defense lawyers will state if you feel you have been unfairly treated and have a case against the hospital/debt collector. In this situation, going to court could see the debt being quashed – especially if you have a professional attorney fighting your corner.
Avoid using credit cards
Plenty of people will simply place the medical debt onto their existing credit cards. It’s a quick and accessible way of paying your bills, and it will appease the hospital’s financial department, but it could have long-term ramifications.
For instance, you are unlikely to pay off the credit card balance once your next statement arrives. This spells bad news for your interest rate. Yet not only will your interest rate go up, but it could also do damage to your credit score.
Plus, when you factor the added interest into the equation, you will be paying even more money to cover the initial medical debt. This is particularly true if you only make the minimum monthly payment on your credit cards.
Work out a payment plan
In general, medical providers don’t want to send you into debt. Many providers will be willing to help you out and structure an affordable payment plan. Instead of trying to cover the medical bills in one lump sum, it is split into a number of equal payments over a set period of time.
When agreeing to a payment plan, remember to check if there are any fees or billing charges added. Also, ensure that the plan is one that you can afford. Even if they’re divided into smaller chunks, these medical bills can still be a significant financial burden for the months – or even years – ahead.