Many Americans face large medical bills and find themselves in debt due to medical care provided by hospitals and doctors. Incurring large medical debt can cause serious financial problems. If you don't have good health insurance, take steps to keep your medical costs down. And if you find yourself in medical debt, there are things you can do to manage or reduce the payments.
Keeping Medical Costs Down
Not every medical procedure has to come with an exorbitant price tag. Avoid incurring large medical debt by:
Research community hospitals. Community health centers often cater to low-income and uninsured households, making the cost of getting sick much easier to bear. Be sure to look into the programs and services they offer.
Ask for discounts and lower fees. If your latest bill is too much to handle, ask your practitioner about lowering your bill. Some physicians will waive or reduce their fees to help those in need. If your doc isn’t interested, talk to the billing or office manager to learn more about the institution’s policies. You may be eligible for state subsidies, regardless of your doctor’s personal preferences.
Enroll in a pharmacy assistance program. The cost of prescription medication can drain a modest income. Consider enrolling in a pharmacy assistance program. While organizations like AARP only cater to older citizens, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance may be able to help younger patients.
Managing High Medical Debts
If you do incur high medical debts, here are some tips for better managing it.
Review your medical or hospital bill. Don’t pay for the hospital’s errors. Review your medical bill before making the first payment. Duplicate labs and procedures are common billing mistakes.
Ask about payment plans. Insured or otherwise, most people cannot afford to pay their medical bills immediately. Ask the billing or office manager for payment plan options. You may be able to negotiate a deal commensurate with your income.
Negotiate discounts for up-front payments. Ask your physician if he or she would be willing to reduce the overall bill in exchange for a larger initial payment. Your doctor may agree in order to avoid your account going into collections.
For lots more information, check out our topic area on Dealing with Your Debt.