An uninsured college student with a tonsillectomy; a mother receiving medical treatment for lymphoma; and a retiree overwhelmed with prescription drug costs. Three different scenarios that all have one main thing in common: medical debt.
Medical costs in the U.S. continue to soar. Such a financial burden can affect anyone from any generation. It can lead to uncertainty, unresolved stress and even bankruptcy. Medical bills continue to be the most common cause for bankruptcy in the U.S.
Medical procedures are expensive, and deductibles can be high if you are insured. And we know that health insurance usually doesn't cover the full costs. But if you're uninsured, the dilemma grows even deeper. These are among the reasons that many people consider the bankruptcy option.
Before considering bankruptcy ...
But before going down that path, there are a few things you can do that may help you:
- Carefully review all medical bills: You shouldn't blindly accept a bill and pay for it. There may be errors related to the procedures and medications. In some cases, patients have been erroneously double- and triple-billed. If you don't understand portions of the bill, contact the hospital's billing department. And if you wonder why something was not covered, contact your insurance company.
- Be open to negotiating with your medical care provider and the hospital's billing department. Learn about costs related to your procedure. Armed with this information, you may be able to negotiate a fairer price.
- Explore whether you are eligible for state and federal assistance. If you live in a low-income household, you will likely qualify.
- Work out payment plans: Many hospitals will accept a low-interest or interest-free payment plan. Typically, health care providers don't want to send patient bills to credit-reporting agencies. But if you do agree on a plan, please make sure to pay your bills.
Sometimes, though, it's difficult to avoid bankruptcy. But there are alternatives to consider, and any one of them may help you in overcoming the seemingly overwhelming medical bills.