If you are like 41% of American adults under the age of 65, you have experienced medical debt problems.1 These may include having problems paying or being unable to pay a medical bill, having a bill sent to collections or having to file bankruptcy due to unpaid medical debt.
The Access Project, a program of the Center for Community Health Research and Action of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, sponsored a study to assess American’s access to healthcare. Researchers found that when staff of medical facilities offered people “information about financial assistance, individuals were less likely to owe money to the facility.”2 What information should typically be provided about medical bills and medical debt? Let’s take a look.
Options when facing medical debt
- If you do NOT have insurance, ask the provider to charge you the same rate they charge insured patients. Insurance companies typically get a break in the fees hospitals, doctors and pharmacies charge. Ask for the same cost reduction and reduce your medical debt.
- If you are insured, review your statement or explanation of benefits provided by your Insurance Company. If they did not cover something that you feel should have been covered, appeal the decision. If you cannot pay the medical debt while you are waiting for a decision, be sure to let the medical provider know what is occurring.
- Be sure your provider has billed all your sources of insurance coverage.
- Ask about charity care or financial assistance programs that may be available to assist with your medical debt. These programs are in place to help people with insurance or without insurance who cannot pay their medical debts. There may be income or other qualifications required.
- Otherwise the debt could be sent to medical debt collections rather than being held by the original provider which could impact you credit score.
- Ask for information about applying for medical benefits through your state. In some areas, the medical coverage will apply retroactively up to three months. Even if the coverage only pays a portion of the medical debt, you will still be in a better financial situation.
Our health is one of our most important assets. Poor health makes it difficult to work, to care for our families and to manage our daily lives. While there is no magic wand for taking care of our medical concerns and medical debts, there are people who can help. Take the time to look into the options available to you and to ask for assistance in handling this important area of life.
Contact a certified credit counselor at American Financial Solutions to get help managing your finances and assessing all of your medical debt repayment options, including a debt management plan, bankruptcy, or a reorganization of your monthly budget.
1Rukavina, Mark. January 2011. Health Care Costs and Medical Debt: Problem and Opportunity (PowerPoint). (Available from The Access Project, 89 South St., Suite 202, Boston, MA 02111)
2Andrulis, D, Duchon, L, Pryor, C, Goodman, N. January 2003. Paying for Health Care When You’re Uninsured: How Much Support Does the Safety Net Offer? The Access Project.