When you’ve come across an unexpected expense as a result of medical emergency, it’s essential that you don’t panic and decide immediately when your mind is clouded. The first instinct in dealing with medical bill debt is to swipe your credit card and worry about that problem later on.
But experts advise against this method as it will only compound your problems. This is especially true if you can’t settle your credit card debt and it ruins your credit history. Chances are you will find it more difficult to secure a loan in the future on credit card debt rather than medical bill debt, which understandably loaning agencies look at more leniently.
Here are just some of the ways to reduce your medical bill debt:
1. Bargain like your life depends on it, which for all intents and purposes it does. Regardless of the way they are negatively portrayed, doctors and hospitals are actually open to negotiation particularly if your circumstances are dire. If you have a scheduled surgery for example, contact the billing department immediately and ask for a discount. Studies showed that hospitals are willing to reduce medical costs by as much as 70% if you pay in cash.
2. If no discounts are available, ask for an affordable payment plan instead. You may risk paying interest under this scheme. Remember, do not promise something you can’t fulfill later on. So the monthly amortization should be realistic accounting for your monthly income and expenses. Now, if you run into an unexpected problem (like unemployment perhaps), contact the medical provider immediately.
3. Seek assistance from charitable institutions to settle medical bill debt. One should be available through your hospital. These could be religious, civic institutions or a separate program of the hospital itself. Understand though that you’re up for some stiff competition to obtain some of the meager resources so you have to be prepared to lose out to others who are in more dismal state than you.
4. Check your bill for errors in postings. If you don’t know how seek expert advice. Your insurance company would only be willing to help you make sense of all the medical terminologies and abbreviations. If you don’t have insurance then there are credit management companies that may bill their services as a percentage of the savings they help you get as a result of their intervention.
5. Study your insurance policy. Understand the terms deductibles, cost-sharing, lifetime caps, co-pays and co-insurances. Have your insurance company or your own employer explain to you what the covered services are so you will not be taken by surprise when you do receive your bill and your request for reimbursement will be denied.
6. Research. Don’t just go to any doctor or hospitals if you have a scheduled medical procedure. Call around and compare prices just so you know what to expect when you come in. Ask if they have some payment plan available or a charity program that you can apply for.
7. Seek non-profit groups and ask for credit counselors who may be able to help you manage your medical bill debt. These counselors are only too willing to help you make sense of your bills and draft a bargaining letter to be sent to the hospital’s billing department if necessary. They can also help you make a monthly budget to cope with the difficult times ahead.
If all else fails, consider seeking legal advice on how you can protect yourself from all your medical bill debt. Would bankruptcy be an option? Consider the pros and cons of such a move. Only a bankruptcy lawyer can explain to you the advantages and pitfalls of seeking protection before the courts.