Medical Debt Survival Guide

Medical bills sending your reeling?

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, an estimated 1 in 3 Americans report having difficulty paying their medical bills – that is, they have had problems affording medical bills within the past year, or they are gradually paying past bills over time, or they have bills they can’t afford to pay at all.1

A separate study released yesterday from the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 1 in 4 U.S. families struggled to pay medical bills in 2012, and 1 in 10 said they had costs they couldn’t pay at all.2

Here are 6 tips to help you avoid financial peril due to an injury or illness:

If you have questions or need help along the way – we’re here. 888-258-2227 or cfr@LssSD.org

  1. Know your insurance coverage. Visit with an insurance representative to gain a basic understanding of deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, and other policy information. Review your policy so that you know the difference between in-network and out-of-network providers, and what expenses are and are not covered. Visit HealthCare.gov for information on insurance coverage options (as well as financial assistance).
  2. Review your billing statements. Check statements for errors. Ask questions of the provider on anything that you do not understand. Make sure to keep all information received from the provider and your insurance company and make sure the information matches up. Document any conversations had with either the provider or the insurer.
  3. Seek assistance. Check with government entities on financial assistance programs. Also, ask provider(s) about any assistance programs available.
  4. Ask for discounts. Even if uninsured, ask the provider to give you the same discounts that an insured patient would receive. It will usually be much less than the self-pay rate. Some providers may also use a sliding fee based on income, family size, or a number of other factors.
  5. Set up a payment plan. Make sure the payment is affordable and that you will still be able to keep up with your other expenses and obligations. Be prepared to provide proof of income and expenditures. Always make some payment to the provider – if unable to make the full payment contact the provider to work out an arrangement. Keeping in touch with the provider and making at least some payment are the best ways to be sure your debts do not wind up in collections.
  6. Don’t mortgage your future to repay debts now. Many providers will not charge interest as long as payments are being made. If interest is charged, it is likely far less than the rate charged by credit card companies and other lenders. Avoid using credit cards, personal loans, and other forms of credit to pay for medical expenses. You should also avoid using your home to repay medical debts (second mortgage, refinance, etc.); if you are unable to make these payments, you are now at risk of losing your home.

Unpaid medical bills are the number one reason why families declare personal bankruptcy. Don’t struggle aloneContact us for a confidential appointment today.

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