Believe it or not, the cost of the average ER visit is nearly $2,000. For many people, finding a way to pay off unexpected medical bills can feel impossible.
Fortunately, learning how to pay off medical debt is easier than you might think.
Let’s take a look at a few tips for how to pay off medical bills that can make getting back on your feet much less stressful.
How to Pay off Medical Debt: 7 Tips That Will Get You Above Water
If you think health bills may derail your life, there’s no need to panic. Take a look at these helpful options for dealing with medical bills.
1. Negotiate for Lower Costs
Are you being harassed by collection calls because you owe money on unpaid medical bills? There are few things more stressful than collection calls when you don’t have the money to pay.
Fortunately, you’d likely be very surprised at how much negotiating room you actually have in these situations. After all, it’s common knowledge that debt collectors typically buy debts for pennies on the dollar, giving you leverage to negotiate for a lower amount.
Just remember that at the end of the day, debt collection companies would rather recoup a lesser amount of the debt than none at all.
2. Find out If You Qualify for a Payment Plan
Many health care providers such as hospitals, physicians and dentists are willing to agree to a payment arrangement, such as Medicare Advantage Plans, to help patients who are unable to afford to pay their bill in one payment.
This generally means simply breaking the bill into multiple equal payments to be paid out over a set number of months until the total amount has been covered.
Keep in mind that fees and interest are often involved in payment plans. So be sure to take a close look at the numbers, because you might end up paying a significant amount in fees on top of the original amount owed.
3. Find Out if You Qualify for an Income-Driven Hardship Plan
Another option is to discuss a hardship plan with your health care provider. This is very similar to a standard repayment plan, except the amount owed can be reduced and broken down into more manageable payments based on your income.
This is typically done by providing proof of income so that they can compare your low income to the amount you owe, and thus work out a plan that allows you to begin repaying without creating an even greater financial hardship.
It’s important to keep in mind that the financial services department at your health care provider will generally be happy to work with you to find a payment plan that is in line with your income level. After all, they deal with thousands of people each year in varying income brackets and want to assist in any way they can.
4. Hire a Medical Bill Advocate
It’s often shocking how quickly medical bills can pile up and become overwhelming, especially for someone who is uninsured. You might be surprised to learn there are services available to help deal with staggering medical expenses.
Medical bill advocates are trained to spot potential errors, discrepancies, and overcharging, thus helping to reduce the total amount owed. These advocates are experts at examining health care bills and understand the average cost of specific procedures.
Before hiring a medical bill advocate, just be sure that the fees they charge would be outweighed by the amount they’d be able to save you.
5. Using Medical Credit Cards
Keep in mind that some providers expect full payment at the time of treatment and thus aren’t willing to offer payment plans. Yet many of these providers may accept medical credit cards for specific medical procedures.
Believe it or not, many medical credit cards offer an interest-free period of 6 to 12 months. This is a great option, especially if you think you’ll be able to pay off the balance within that period of time. So take some time to do the math and assess whether you can make that work, otherwise be prepared to be hit with fees and deferred interest.
6. Using Unsecured Credit
There are a number of unsecured credit options available. These include personal loans and low-interest credit cards.
A personal loan can be a good option, especially if you want to consolidate multiple debts into a single monthly payment. Just be aware that personal loans can be an expensive way to take care of medical bills and you will likely need excellent credit in order to qualify for a low rate.
If you have a 0% interest credit card, you could consider using it to cover your medical debt. If not, consider applying for one. But again, you’ll need great credit to qualify for such a low rate.
Keep in mind that it’s important to pay this debt off as soon as possible in order to avoid fees and interest charges.
7. Things You’ll Want to Avoid
Facing major medical debt can be scary. Therefore it’s often very tempting to ignore it or jump at a quick fix. For example, putting your medical expenses on a credit card might help get your doctor off your back, but you’ll likely be facing major interest rates in the long-term, especially if you can’t pay it off quickly.
Always remember that ignoring your medical debt won’t make it go away. This tactic will most likely result in debt collectors calling and the potential of a lawsuit if the debt remains unpaid.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Figuring out how to pay off medical debt can be intimidating and scary. After all, even a short stay in a hospital can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Insurance can help, yet medical expenses still add up very quickly.
Just remember that you are not alone. Payment plans are available, as well as medical debt forgiveness in some extreme situations. So there’s no need to panic. Make an appointment with your health care provider and be honest with your income details so that they have all the information necessary to help.
Click here to learn how to avoid digging a debt hole.