It was an emergency. Your daughter was injured in a car accident and had to be rushed to the hospital. She was bloodied and bruised, broke her leg, and is now on the road to recovery. Nevertheless, it was a shock that no parent wants to experience.
Weeks later, a second surprise hits: Sticker shock from the medical bills that ranged from emergency care, physician consultations and treatments to prescriptions. It’s all too much, and you just can’t pay it right now.
Many Americans find themselves in similar scenarios. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 20 percent of U.S. residents have medical debt on their credit report. Unpaid medical debt can lead a person or a family closer to bankruptcy.
Negotiate, work out payment plan, crowdfund
As a matter of fact, medical bills are the No. 1 reason people file for bankruptcy. But there are a few things that you can do in attempting to work out a deal to pay these bills and get back on the road to financial recovery:
- Thoroughly read the bill: Don’t ignore medical bills, or any bills for that matter. Check all the details related to procedures, medications and other services. There may be some errors, including being double-billed or billed for services that did not take place.
- Negotiate with your medical provider and talk to the billing department. You can likely work out an interest-free payment plan that has no fees. For example, they may allow you to pay a $6,000 bill over a period of 18 months, but you must make the minimum monthly payment. Medical providers don’t want to send patient bills to collection agencies, so they may work with you.
- Find out about assistance plans: If you qualify, you may enroll in state and federal medical assistance programs.
- Consider crowdfunding: With a once-in-a-lifetime medical procedure, one may consider arranging an online fundraiser through a site such as GoFundMe. The results can be a blessing to help pay off excessive medical bills as family, friends and, even, strangers may pledge money toward your medical debt.
- Pay your bill: Slowly, but surely take the necessary steps you need to pay the bill.
With high deductibles and an increasing number of co-pays, some people just can’t afford to pay their medical bills. But try to keep calm, take action, and eventually matters just may work out.