Research reveals that 79 million Americans have debt problems that are directly related to their medical bills.
Does this include you?
If so, there are steps you can take to climb out of this statistic. The first one is to create a medical bill payment plan.
If you’ve never heard of such a plan, read on.
Today, we’re sharing seven can’t-miss steps that can help you develop a successful and sustainable repayment strategy that can help you tackle your medical debt, once and for all.
1. Time to Review the Charges
It’s no secret that medical bills can be riddled with errors, even when they’re generated electronically.
In fact, some industry experts estimate that the error rate on such invoices is between 80% and 90%! Before you start crafting a repayment plan, it’s important to make sure all of the charges you’re seeing are accurate.
Pay close attention to any medications listed on your bills, as well as any services rendered. Did you really take those medications or receive those services? If not, you’re within your rights to dispute those costs.
It’s also common for hospitals to bill you for a full day’s stay, even if you checked out early in the morning. It’s always worth making a call to double-check any line item that seems suspicious.
2. A Commitment to Paying
The next step in creating your medical bill repayment plan is to understand that you have to pay your bills (given they’re accurate).
It’s tempting to ignore them or make a pile on the kitchen table, hoping they’ll go away. Yet, doing so is a surefire way to accumulate a mountain of debt.
Failing to pay your medical bills will result in ongoing calls from the collections agency. Not only are these incessant interruptions annoying, but they can also take a major toll on your credit score.
3. A Ban on Credit Cards
It’s never a good idea to use one form of debt to fund another. That’s why we advise against using a credit card to pay your medical bills.
While this might get the doctors off your back for a little while, it does little to solve the underlying issue. Any time you carry a balance on your credit card, it makes it that much more difficult to crawl out from your debt.
The higher your balance, the higher your interest rate will climb and the lower your credit score will fall. It’s smarter to set up a monthly payment plan that allows you to slowly chip away at your medical debt.
Generally, you have a little more power to work with medical bills than other forms of debt. As long as you commit to paying something, you can often get by with smaller payments, at least in the short-term.
4. Interest-Free Plan
While this isn’t the case with every provider, most hospitals or doctor’s offices are willing to work with you. In fact, depending on your circumstance, it might even be possible to setup a zero-interest medical bill repayment plan.
In any case, you won’t know until you ask. Many times, the number you see in the mail is too high for you, and with a little discussion, you can get it down to one that makes you more comfortable.
5. Prompt Payment Discount Check
Another reason to pick up the phone and call about your medical bill? Some providers will offer you a small discount if you pay your entire charge upfront, within 30 days.
Though the dip is minimal (usually 10% or less), every little bit helps. Plus, you can always ask for a higher discount if you still think you’re paying too much.
One resource to keep close by? The Healthcare Bluebook. With this online resource, you can quickly scan to see what other local hospitals or doctors are charging their patients for the same service you received.
If there’s a major gap in the numbers, bring it to their attention and ask for an explanation. This is a great way to jumpstart a discussion about price reduction.
6. Financial Assistance Resources
In some cases, you might not be able to repay your medical bills at all, even if you’re able to convince your provider to lower your payments.
If this happens, take heart. You’re not alone and you do have recourse.
Most hospitals have plans in place to offer financial assistance to patients, but there’s no standard procedure. Rather, each institution will have its own set of steps you’ll have to follow.
For instance, you might have to apply for assistance through Medicaid first. If you’re rejected there, then you can apply through the hospital. In other cases, you can apply directly through the hospital from the beginning, but the application process is laborious and paperwork-heavy.
If you still can’t find relief from your medical debt, there are a variety of state and federal programs designed to help. You can find a short list of options here.
7. A Personal Loan Application
We saved this step for last because it should be your last resort.
Any time you apply for a personal loan, you have to contend with the APR, and that can add a greater financial burden on top of the one you already have.
Still, your interest rate won’t be as high as it would be if you paid with a credit card, which makes this a viable option if none of the above steps work. Be sure to discuss your situation with your prospective lender to get the best rates possible.
Get Started on Your Medical Bill Payment Plan
When you need healthcare, you need it now. There’s usually no time to consider the long-term costs. However, medical debt doesn’t have to define your life.
With the right medical bill payment plan in place, you can stay on top of your finances and come out stronger in the end. The important thing is to stay in communication with your provider and try to work out terms that you can both agree with.
Need more help controlling your debt? We can help you find debt consolidation solutions that are just right for you. Contact us today to learn more about how our platform works.