Don’t let medical bills ruin your finances

Medical debt can be one of the most costly types of balances to carry, as well as the most damaging to consumers’ credit standing if left unpaid. In some cases, medical balances differ from that of credit card debt and loans, and it's important to be aware of these differences to take control of the situation.

MSN Money points out that medical balances will not appear on a consumer's credit report until it falls into collections. In addition, knowing the total balance can be confusing because patients may receive several payment forms from hospitals and insurers, each with different details and amounts. Because of all the correspondence, it's important for individuals to be proactive about finding out exactly how much they owe, which costs are covered by insurance and when the payment deadlines are. This process may involve contacting both the hospital and the insurance agency.

Many hospitals will offer repayment plans allowing patients more leeway in repaying their balance. However, hospital deadlines for enrollment in these plans will vary across the board. For example, some hospitals give patients up to 150 days to negotiate their balances or pay their bill before the amount is sent to collections. For this reason, adults should immediately find out their hospital's policy.

There are several ways to keep bills out of collections and repay medical debt, but it requires consumers to stay diligent about their balances. In addition to finding out which repayment programs their hospital offers, it can be helpful to contact different hospitals to find out their pricing structure. Many consumers may not be aware that hospitals charge different amounts for the same procedure, so individuals who find more affordable services may save money on healthcare costs. It's also important to contact insurance companies before undergoing a procedure to find out if it's covered. This can help adults plan ahead for costs that may not be included in their insurance package.

Lastly, adults should consider speaking with a credit counselor to explore debt management plans that may help them get a handle on all of their balances. Counselors can help adults set a budget that may help them meet their day-to-day needs or enroll in programs to help them chip away at debt.