The past few years' changes to the health care system have led to an increased scrutiny toward the industry itself, the way it treats patients and its billing practices. The last of these has become a cause for concern as many patients have dealt with staggering sums of medical debt and an unyielding billing system. If you are one of the nearly 43 million people in such a situation, you might be wondering what you can do. Here are several ways to manage medical debt.
1. Never hesitate to ask questions
Medical bills can look like a different language to the unfamiliar reader. There are codes for each function you have been charged for, and deciphering all of this can be difficult, to say the least. It is essential, however, if you want to start managing medical debt. Whether a bill is in collections or simply outstanding, you can tackle it by contacting the issuer and understanding its contents. It is not uncommon for this to reveal errors and overcharges.
2. Reach out to your provider
When you get hit with a medical bill you cannot afford, resist the urge to panic. Instead, realize that time is of the essence and reach out to the doctor, facility or lab that issued the bill. Starting a discussion is the first step to preventing a bill from going to collections or becoming an outstanding debt. In this discussion, ask any questions you may have regarding specific items, and explore options such as payment plans and discounts.
3. Negotiate and dispute to lower bills
If you dispute certain items contained in your debt, it is a good idea to assemble all of the documentation you can and begin a dispute process. This is typically an option for debt that is or is not in collections. If you have no items to explicitly dispute, you may still follow these steps and negotiate in exchange for an agreement to payment arrangements.
4. Consolidate medical debt
Some lenders offer programs that allow for the consolidation of medical debt. If you have exhausted other options and have multiple medical bills that you need to pay off , consolidation can reduce the effect on your credit and provide a way to start paying off the debt. Unlike credit card consolidation, however, there is no immediate savings on interest and other fees, so you should carefully consider this option.
Medical debt can be crippling, but there are ways to manage it and regain control of your life. Contacting an attorney may help you understand additional options for this situation.