What To Do If You Have Medical Debt

Some questions and answers about medical debt from CNBC:

How can I avoid medical debt?

The high level of medical debt among young adults, Ms. McKernan said, is an argument for buying health insurance, even if you feel you don’t need it. “Get health insurance, even if you’re young,” she said. A health plan may not cover every cost incurred, she said, “but it sure helps.”

Likewise, she said, even a modest emergency savings account — say, between $250 and $750 — can help cover unexpected bills. A recent analysis by the JPMorgan Chase & Co. Institute found that 16 percent of American families had paid at least one “extraordinary” medical bill, typically of just over $1,100, from 2013 to 2015.

How can I manage medical debt?

If you get a medical bill that’s unexpectedly large, don’t ignore it — doing so may mean that the bill is sent to a collections agency, where it can dent your credit history, Ms. Donovan said. Start by asking your provider for an itemized bill, she suggested, to check that you were not mistakenly charged for services you didn’t receive.

Particularly if your insurer has denied coverage, call and ask whether the provider used the correct billing codes. “Ask, ‘What code needs to be used to have this covered?'” she said. Be polite, Ms. Donovan advised, but don’t be put off: “It’s not an unreasonable thing to ask.”

Where can I find more information about managing medical debt?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has taken action against medical debt collectors, offers tips for handling medical debt on its website.