Given the U.S.’s infamous, astronomical healthcare costs, medical debt has pervasively affected a hundred million Americans, their families, and the entire nation. A survey estimated that medical debts totaled up to $195 billion as of 2019.
Medical debts can turn someone’s life upside down, as they are the leading cause of over half of bankruptcies in the U.S. Luckily, several options are available to support you in handling your debts and getting back on your feet. Here are eight strategies you can use to get medical debt forgiveness.
Drenched in Medical Debts: 8 Options to Help You Get Medical Debts Reduced or Forgiven
Medical Debt: Definition & Repercussion
Medical debt is any unpaid amount a patient owes from medical providers after receiving healthcare services and related procedures. It occurs when they can’t afford to pay by the due date, causing unpaid medical bills to pile up occasionally and hang around for years.
Medical debt sometimes refers to money owed to non-medical providers, as patients use credit cards or personal loans to settle their medical expenses. Despite paying off the owed balance to hospitals and clinics, medical debts still chase after patients because they cannot repay the banks, credit unions, or money lenders.
It is believed that uninsured individuals are the most vulnerable to medical debts. Still, the debt burden hurts low-income individuals, communities of color (Black and Hispanic), chronically ill or disabled people, residents from rural areas, and parents with children under 18 as much.
Being in debt is detrimental to both mental and physical health, but medical debt crises seem to exaggerate stress and its impact. People having trouble paying their healthcare costs are more likely to suffer poor mental health, from rising anxiety to recurring stress episodes. In turn, immense unmanaged stress can decrease one’s quality of life, followed by a host of other health issues.
To resolve debts, most would reach money lenders, swipe credit cards beyond their limits, or rely on other borrowing methods for a quick fix. However, these remedies are temporary only, and patients are often trapped in the never-ending cycle of debt after debt.
Even with health insurance and cost-reduction programs, many people still end up with thousands of dollars in debt due to attending copayments and out-of-pocket costs. Another repercussion is that lingering debts prevent people from seeking medical support in emergencies. In most cases, they may even forego needed care, increasing their risks of complications and even death.
How to Pay off Medical Debt as Soon as Possible?
While hospitals were created to help sick people get well and feel better, most Americans are terrified by the idea of visiting a hospital, even in an emergency. A simple visit or checkup can pave the way for thousands of dollars in debt.
Medical debt forgiveness is possible to some extent, but the process frequently comes with rigid requirements and plenty of time-consuming steps to assess eligibility. However, there is a bright side, as many payoff options are available to help patients get out of medical debts.
Here are some dynamics and methods you can use to tackle your debts to minimize the aftermath of medical debts on your finances, quality of life, and overall well-being.
Recheck Medical Bills
Unfortunately, errors in medical bills are more common than you thought, with 70-80% of them containing some mistakes. No matter how enormous the bills are, make sure you really owe the money by reviewing the statements and checking for errors before settling the payment.
To ensure the best outcomes of getting medical debt forgiveness:
- Ask for itemized billing statements first and go through them right the moment you receive them.
- Confirm services that your health insurance has covered in your policy.
- Check for medical services you have and never received, and look for any duplicate charges that might cause a mysterious surge in your overall bill.
If you don’t understand something, call your healthcare provider or insurer for clarification. Another way to get a hold of what you have been billed is to get a copy of your medical record and compare all listed services and procedures completed to your final medical bills.
Use Your Negotiation Skills
One potential strategy for getting medical debt forgiveness is to negotiate costs on your own. In some cases, healthcare providers may help wipe away a portion of your bills, but the success may depend on several factors, such as your circumstance and the health system in your state.
Although it may be somewhat embarrassing, you will never know if you never try. A 2021 LendingTree survey showed that among 3⁄4 of patients who tried to negotiate it down, 93% succeeded in lowering their balance.
Be vocal and write a letter to explain your reasons for being unable to pay in full and outline your request for a cost reduction. Your chances of success are improved if you have insurance coverage or your financial situation is verified below the federal poverty level.
Ask for Payment Plans
Several hospitals, clinics, and medical providers offer minimal to zero-interest payment plans to help patients deal with medical debts.
Since most patients are unlikely to pay medical bills in one payment, opting for a medical payment plan is a practical solution to solve medical expenses one step at a time. The total balance will be divided into smaller, equal monthly payments after the patient’s financial situation and ability to pay are assessed.
This flexible payment method is only available in some places, so you should check with your doctor to know if they do offer it, then learn more about terms and conditions and explore available options that fit your budget and needs.
Get a Loan for Medical Expenses
A medical loan is a personal loan that you can use for financing medical affairs. Sometimes, these loans are relatively less expensive than using credit cards. Third-party money lenders or agencies give them out. Without collateral requirements, you are not tied to the risks of losing your assets when you have problems paying back.
By using credit history and income, you may secure a loan through your healthcare provider or sign up for a loan online. The loan can be accessible within a few business days. Medical loans don’t erase your medical debts for good despite the convenience. Even if your healthcare debts are resolved, you still owe money to lenders.
Consolidate Debts with 0% APR Credit Cards
Consolidating debts with 0% APR credit cards is another strategy to pay off debts. Such cards involve taking a single loan to pay off various existing debts, offering interest-free rates ranging from 6 months to 18 months or two full years.
Although it helps solve debts quicker, this remedy may affect your credit scores and potentially increase rates if you don’t plant it appropriately, such as failing to make payments within 60 days or exceeding credit limits. Once promo periods are over, your interest will be reset to regular APR rates. Consider touching base with a professional to roll out the consolidation plan that works in your favor.
Sign Up for Medical Credit Cards
True to its name, medical credit cards are created for a single purpose: covering medical-related expenses. Unlike traditional credit cards, your credit score report won’t be tainted with medical debts if you pay the entire balance within six months.
While other remedies may require reapplication, you can use medical credit cards to finance medical debts unlimited times, as long as the owed payments are paid off in time. Use a medical credit card wisely so you won’t be left with piled-up healthcare expenses and increased interest.
Seek Financial Assistance
Getting outside support is a savvy choice to get medical debt forgiveness and put an end to your medical debts. Enlist help from medical billing advocates and some groups like the Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals and the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy. These professionals know best about reducing medical bills by reviewing, finding errors, and negotiating them down.
A medical case worker is another excellent source of information and preferences for people dealing with medical debts, as they can refer you to charitable organizations, churches, and government agencies. Beyond that, here are some government-sponsored organizations and charities worth exploring:
- CancerCare Copay Assistance Foundation
- Patient Access Network Foundation
- HealthWell Foundation
- The Catastrophic Illness In Children Relief Fund
- The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
- UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation
While achieving medical debt forgiveness through bankruptcy could be negative to some extent, this option is considered the best last resort for people drenched in debt.
When it comes to seeking medical debt forgiveness with bankruptcy, there are two options available in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code: filing under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, depending on each individual’s situation. These two remedies have high effectiveness in covering all medical debts.
Regardless, seeking advice from professionals like lawyers or debt counselors is strongly recommended, as filing for bankruptcy requires a high level of comprehension and involves a lot of legal paperwork. Plus, it might not be for everyone, so think about it thoroughly before doing so.
If you have any questions about medical debt forgiveness and how to pay off medical debts, please contact us for a free consultation.
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