Though it is one of the biggest financial burdens for citizens, many Americans still do not understand what to do when they are faced with past due medical bills. In addition, those owing money to insurers or hospitals may be surprised with the number of options available to them when deciding how to pay off their debt.
Personal finance journalist Brittney Laryea recommends that regardless of the amount of debt owed, the first step should always be to ask for a detailed list of charges:
Request a detailed, line item statement and review it carefully for any errors. It’s possible you could have received treatment from an out-of-network doctor without your knowledge. Or, there may be duplicate charges or charges for care you didn’t receive.
After assessing the medical bills and ensuring that they are accurate, the next step is to choose how to pay them. For smaller sums of money, Laryea recommends using a 0% APR credit card:
If your bill isn’t overwhelmingly large you could try paying the debt off with a credit card with an introductory 0% interest period. Before you apply, make sure you’ll be able pay off the balance before the 0% interest introductory period expires.
If you are unable to pay the debt with a credit card, a personal loan or charity dealing with helping pay medical debt may be your best option:
Depending on your credit history, rates on personal loans range from 4.7 percent to 36 percent. If you were diagnosed with a particular condition look toward organizations such as the Lupus Foundation of America for individuals with Lupus or the American Kidney Fund for those with kidney disease. You can also apply for grants from nonprofits that provide more general assistance such as the Patient Access Network and the HealthWell Foundation
In some cases where the debt exceeds half of your yearly income, Laryea recommends declaring bankruptcy:
Let the hospital know you’re considering bankruptcy first, as they may then be open to negotiation.
Medical debt can arise through a variety of medical problems, however just like the numerous ways it can arise, it can also be fought through a variety of mediums.