5 Ways to Pay Off Your Medical Bills
Are you having trouble paying off medical bills? You’re not alone. According to a recent survey from The Commonwealth Fund, 79 million Americans are facing issues with medical debt. If your medical bills are piling up and you are unsure of how you’re going to pay for them, consider these five strategies.
1. Medical Payment Plans
If you’re unable to completely pay off your medical bills or are more comfortable paying them off over time, consider a medical payment plan. This permits you to pay your medical bills through fixed monthly payments instead of one lump sum.
Most doctors and medical providers offer payment plan options to their patients. Before signing up for a medical payment plan, however, be sure to inquire if interest or additional fees will be charged. If they are, do the math and find out whether this option would still be worth it for you.
2. Personal Loan
If your medical provider does not offer a medical payment plan or their payment plan comes with unreasonable interest rates or fees, consider a personal loan. With a personal loan, you secure a fixed interest rate and pay off your medical bills through fixed monthly payments just like you would with a medical payment plan.
Read about our instant offers and getting a medical expense personal loan.
3. Medical Bill Advocates
A medical bill advocate is an expert you hire to negotiate medical bills on your behalf. If you have extensive medical bills or believe you have found errors or overcharges on yours, the cost to hire a medical bill advocate may be worth long-term savings. These experts can read healthcare bills, determine typical costs for procedures, and catch errors and overcharges.
Your medical provider can recommend a reputable medical bill advocate or you can find one on your own via the Claims Assistance Professionals and Advocates.
4. Income-Driven Hardship Plans
Income-driven hardship plans are sometimes available to low-income patients with Medicaid. If you have Medicaid, you may be able to use one of these plans to reduce the amount you owe in medical bills and lock in a payment plan with smaller monthly payments. Consult your medical provider to determine your eligibility for an income-driven hardship plan.
5. Medical Credit Cards
Providers that don’t accept payment plans may accept what’s known as medical credit cards. The major advantage of medical credit cards is that they usually come with an interest-free period that ranges from 6 – 12 months.
If you can pay off your medical bills within that time period, medical credit cards can be a great option. In the event you need more time to pay off your bills, however, this may not be the best option as you’ll be hit with high interest rates once the interest-free period comes to an end.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Medical Bills Affect Your Credit Score?
Unpaid medical bills can affect your credit score if they are reported to the credit bureaus. In most cases, your medical provider will send any unpaid bills to a debt collector and a debt collection agency will then report your bills. One in six credit reports contain medical debt. And unfortunately, even one overdue medical bill can cause your credit score to drop 50 to 100 points.
Can you Negotiate Hospital Bills?
Yes, you can negotiate your hospital bills. You can do this on your own, hire a professional debt settlement company to negotiate the outstanding balance of your medical debt, or hire a medical bill advocate to review your bills for errors and overcharges.
Do Unpaid Medical Bills Ever Go Away?
If you refuse or are unable to pay your medical bills, a debt collection agency will likely report the unpaid debt to the credit bureaus and hinder your credit score for up to 7 years. Although your unpaid medical bills won’t affect your credit score after the 7-year mark, you’ll still be legally responsible for the debt.
In the less likely event you can avoid getting sued for the debt, and the statute of limitations is up (varies by state), you may get to the point in about 10 years where you won’t be called by debt collectors about your unpaid debt.
What Happens if You Cannot Pay Medical Bills?
At first, nothing will happen if you can’t pay your medical bills. However, after about 180 days, most healthcare providers will sell your unpaid medical debt to a collection agency. The agency will likely both report the unpaid debt to the credit bureaus and attempt to collect it.
When the debt collection agency attempts to collect on the debt, they will likely call you repeatedly to try to get you to pay the debt or file a lawsuit against you and trigger wage garnishment or a lien against your personal property.
The Bottom Line
Medical bills can quickly pile up to thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars and may seem impossible to pay back. But by exploring all the options available to you and making smart financial decisions, you can negotiate, settle or pay back your eye-popping medical bills over time. And by prioritizing steep medical bill payments, you can push forward prioritizing personal recovery.
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