For families or individuals who lack health or dental insurance, a simple trip to the doctor or emergency room can cost thousands of dollars. And for those living paycheck to paycheck, costs like these can be an unthinkable setback. Even those with insurance can find themselves with bills for procedures that weren’t covered.
From negotiating lower payments to using crowdfunding, this article offers seven tips on how to avoid medical bankruptcy and how to manage medical debt if you already have it.
Medical debt statistics to know
Over 66.5% of all bankruptcies are tied to medical issues, according to CNBC. While the Affordable Care Act has helped 20 million people gain insurance coverage, the number of uninsured Americans is creeping back up. According to KFF, 45% of uninsured adults said they can’t afford the cost of health care coverage and expensive medical treatments.
These high medical care costs can lead people to cut corners in their healthcare management. The Burden of Medical Debt report from the Kaiser Family Foundation and The New York Times found the following:
- 65% of participants postponed going to the dentist.
- 62% used over the counter drugs in lieu of seeing a doctor when sick.
- 43% did not fill a needed prescription.
- 43% did not get medical treatment recommended by a doctor.
- 41% claimed that an individual in the household needed to take on more work to compensate.
How to avoid bankruptcy and find relief from medical debt
While statistics about medical bankruptcy can be discouraging, it’s important to remember that there are ways to find financial relief. When you don’t know how to clear medical debt, keep these seven tips in mind.
1. Don’t ignore the bills
Do medical bills affect your credit score? Just like regular bills, your credit score can plummet if you toss medical bills in a drawer and put off paying them. It’s important to notify hospitals, health providers, and insurers right away if you think a payment will be late, or if you want to request a payment plan.
Paying a portion of your bill, even a small amount, is still better than making no payment at all—it keeps you on better terms with the recipient. If you don’t have the funds available to make a payment on time, ask about financial assistance programs that may be available to you.
2. Double check your medical bills
Always ask for an itemized statement so you can look for billing errors. These are more common than you might think, and they could end up costing you thousands of dollars if left unchecked. If you have questions about your bills, don’t be afraid to contact your medical provider and ask for clarification. Make sure that all payments from both you and your insurance company have been applied to your bill.
3. Negotiate a lower rate
This may seem like a daunting task, but it’s certainly worth trying. Call the billing office and ask if they’d accept a lower rate for your care. They may not return your calls right away, and you may hear “no” a few times, but being persistent can pay off. You can also sometimes get lower rates for paying cash or paying in a way they favor.
4. Put away your credit cards
Some may argue that swiping plastic is the leading cause of bankruptcies. Whether or not that’s true across the board, it’s best to avoid using credit cards to pay for your medical expenses, as it only adds compound interest to injury. It’s illegal for hospitals to deny you medical treatment, so don’t rush to use a credit card if that’s the only form of payment you have at the moment. You can work out a payment plan with the hospital later.
5. Apply for financial assistance
Many hospitals offer emergency financial assistance programs for those who are struggling to pay off overwhelming medical bills. If you’re unemployed, uninsured, or simply need extra financial help, then looking into assistance from your hospital may be a good place to start. Most financial assistance programs require you to fill out a comprehensive application and provide proof of your financial situation.
6. Consider taking out a bank loan
Applying for a bank loan has often been the go-to solution for people in need of money they don’t have. While this solution is a reliable way to receive money, keep in mind that applying and qualifying for a loan can take time. It also means paying an interest rate on top of the total loan amount.
7. Use fundraising to get rid of medical debt
Crowdfunding is a proven way to raise funds quickly from family, friends, and even strangers who want to show their support. Creating a medical fundraiser gives you an outlet to tell your story and can keep you from falling into medical bankruptcy. While it’s always hard to ask for help, you might be surprised by the number of friends and family members who want to help you figure out how to get rid of debt.
Millions have turned to GoFundMe when they weren’t sure how to get rid of medical debt. Our free fundraising model means you can keep more of the funds you raise and reach your fundraising goal faster, and our sharing tools make it easy to spread the word on social media. If you need pointers along the way, our blog is here to help. These are just a few of our posts related to medical costs and fundraising:
- How to Find Surgery Assistance When You Need It Most
- How to Tackle the Financial Cost of Cancer Care
- Medical Tourism and How to Fund It
- Fundraising for Women’s Health Care
- Financial Help for Out of Pocket Medical Expenses
Find relief from medical debt today
Crowdfunding through GoFundMe means you don’t have to face your medical debt alone. Others can join you on our health journey and help you get back on your feet. If you need some tips to get started, read our medical crowdfunding guide or our blog post on how to pay medical bills. When you’re ready, sign up to create your fundraiser and find medical debt relief today.