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Strategies for paying off medical debt

Medical bills are one of the leading causes of debt and bankruptcy in the U.S. each year. According to the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, 41 percent of people aged 19-64 disclosed that they had trouble paying their medical bills or associated medical debt. As one of the largest problems facing Americans today, it is essential that patients know what to do when they have difficulty paying their medical bills.

According to US News Money, the first and healthiest approach to take is to acknowledge the debt and do not ignore it. If a debt goes to collections, it not only affects the patient’s credit, it may also reduce his or her bargaining power on the issue. Once a patient receives a bill, it is imperative that they thoroughly study it for accuracy, noting any discrepancies. Due to the large volume of bills that are generated by hospitals and doctor offices, mistakes often occur. If possible, patients should always ask for an itemized list of charges so they know exactly what they are being asked to pay for. If they notice anything suspicious, they should immediately contact the billing office and dispute the charge.

Once patients are aware of their charges, they should never be afraid to negotiate. Although individual providers are less likely to budge much on their prices, hospitals will often reduce their charges in return for a quicker payment schedule. Private pay patients treated at both hospitals and private offices can cite the much higher rates they are charged compared to patients who pay with insurance. Patients may never know which offices will work with them unless they try, so it is worth the effort.

In some places, charities and hospitals will offer assistance programs to those in need. Some medical providers may choose to waive all fees once they learn of patients’ financial states. Patients may ask their doctors about any assistance programs they participate in and receive the help they need through that avenue. Although medical debt can be overwhelming, patients may have success paying off their bills over time and with assistance. 

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