Medical debt is a growing problem for Americans. Approximately one-in-four adults struggle with health-care-related debt, with many filing for bankruptcy due to unpaid medical bills. Even those with stable finances and excellent insurance experience unexpected medical charges from emergency visits or hospital stays, setting them back financially.
Compounding medical debt can be debilitating as you strive to pay off hefty fines and incurred interest overtime. In fact, many suffer worsening physical and mental health due to stress and the inability to afford continued care. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce and hopefully eliminate potential medical debt.
Start Strong: Shop for Affordable Health Insurance Plans
Low-income individuals may qualify for Medicaid, a public health insurance program that provides coverage for little to no cost. Although eligibility varies from state to state, those who work full-time can gain access to employer-sponsored group health insurance to keep them healthy while seeking out more permanent forms of coverage.
For those looking for individual, family, or short-term insurance, AHiX Marketplace offers numerous affordable plans for everyone. Individual insurance plans fit into one of three tiers: Bronze (lowest rates, highest out-of-pocket expenses), Silver (modest premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums), and Gold (high premiums, low out-of-pocket expenses). Once you’ve selected the plan that best meets your needs, apply for quick, life-saving coverage.
Build a Budget
A zero-based budget is a strategy that carefully determines where every single dollar will go. Account for food, shelter, utilities, and transportation costs to ensure that your essentials are taken care of before paying off debts. It is also a great idea to start an emergency fund store funds for unexpected accidents.
Investigate the Cost of Procedures Ahead of Time
Procedures and treatments can vary wildly in cost and quality, so take the time to do your research before seeking out care. Healthcare can be more expensive in big cities, which can eliminate individual medical facilities from your budget. Healthcare Bluebook is an online price transparency tool that compares the cost of medical services and ranks providers based on affordability and quality. By carefully analyzing plans and procedure prices ahead of time, you can eliminate high-priced packages and stick within your price range.
Review Your Bills Carefully
When you receive medical bills, look over them carefully to ensure your charges are fair and reasonable. Americans pay an estimated $58 billion per year in medical bills they did not need to pay. If you have insurance, make sure you send the invoice to them first for review. If there are items that your insurance company is not covering, follow up and ask for details to ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. To avoid overpaying, hold off on paying fees and expenses until you’ve received every invoice. That way, you can review your itemized lists and negotiate with hospitals or insurance agencies when necessary.
Negotiate Medical Bills
If you notice inconsistencies or discrepancies on your invoice, set up a meeting with the hospital’s administration or billing department. When speaking, you should explain your situation honestly and thoroughly. Show your income, assets, and what you could realistically afford to pay for the treatment. Sometimes there are options for lowering costs or working out payment plans.
The Bottom Line
Unexpected medical expenses can lead to debt without the proper planning and precautions. By reviewing invoices carefully, contacting hospital billing departments and insurance agents, and building a budget that incorporates an emergency fund, you can evade life-altering debt and get the medical care you need.