Doesn’t it seem like even a check-up and a physical will have your wallet screaming for mercy these days? It doesn’t require major surgery and scans to rack up a pile of medical debt in this day and age.
At some point or another many of us might even deal with a major health issue that requires exams, scans, check-ups and quite possibly surgery.
Hopefully your health insurance provider (or health insurance alternative) will pick up the majority of the costs, but what do you do about the remaining amount that you owe? Or worse – what if you don’t have insurance?
Here are five quick tips on dealing with your medical debt:
1. Check for Errors
Let’s face it, we all make mistakes. I know what you’re thinking – why does it seem like insurance companies make more errors than the rest of us?
There may be some truth in that, but the fact of the matter is that you should be double checking your debt and records anyways.
Inevitably you will come across some errors here and there which could save you hundreds of dollars.
2. Check Your Attitude
I have a tendency to get fired up when I find an error or when I find out I have to pay something that I thought the insurance was covering.
I’ve had to go to the doctor twice in the last month and as I was checking out after the second appointment, the nurse politely asked me to pay a portion of the bill. I could feel the tension rise as I wondered why the insurance company hadn’t paid for this.
What would get accomplished if I ripped into the nurse and told her I wouldn’t pay!? Not much.
But don’t we all get like that to a degree sometimes when we think something is being paid for but realize it’s not (don’t leave me hangin’ here!)
The best thing to do when an error is uncovered – or you get word that you are on the hook for a portion of the bill is to be humble and gracious.
This can apply to all areas of life – things are more likely to be resolved when you are humble and gracious to others rather than making sure everyone knows you are upset!
3. Apply for Medical Financial Aid
This is a new one to me. I didn’t realize there was financial aid for medical debt until a friend of mine mentioned they applied when they had their baby.
There are certain guidelines that must be met (income levels, percentage of debt to income etc.). But many times even if they don’t pay 100% of the debt they may pay a big chunk. Often, if your medical debt-to-income ratio is over 30%, the hospital will give financial aid.
Put it this way – every little bit helps! So if you can get any portion of the debt wiped out through Medical Financial Aid go for it!
Find out if the hospital has a financial aid department you can visit or a number to call and request an application. You’ll need to list all your assets and income so they can make a determination.
4. Call to Negotiate a Discount
I’m amazed at how many people don’t do this. Is it because we feel uncomfortable asking for things? Do we feel awkward and bad?
Give the insurance company, hospital or doctor a call, speak to the billing department (remembering #2 above) and ask them for a discount.
If it’s a smaller bill and you can afford to pay it off – give them a call first to ask if they will give you a discount if you pay the bill off in full. Many times they will apply some percentage off the bill.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate – you don’t know what they’ll do until you ask.
5. Ask For a Payment Plan
If you can’t pay it off in full, the last step is to ask for a payment plan. Many doctors and hospitals will put you on some sort of plan to pay a regular amount monthly until it’s paid off.
This is better than being sent to collections and better than a sharp stick in the eye. Get on the payment plan and pay your bills on time!
After six months or so of paying on time, repeat steps 2 & 4 to see if you can get a discount again. You never know until you ask!
Good health is priceless, but inevitably we’ll all deal with a medical bill or two during our lifetime. Remembering these tips will help ease the burden when that time comes.