Medical bills, fees and expenses are some of the most costly balances consumers may incur, and debt of this nature is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. But failing to undergo medical procedures and treatments due to high costs can take a serious, and sometimes fatal, toll on a person’s health. A significant percentage of uninsured Americans may be weighed down by medical debt, and there are several options they should consider to pay down their balance and prevent high amounts from being sent to collections.
According to the New York Times, patients should first speak directly with their doctor or healthcare provider to find out if they will reduce the bill. Many hospitals and facilities will work with patients who cannot afford to pay the full balance, but it’s up to individuals to contact their provider and ask. In addition, taking proactive steps may discourage hospitals from sending bills to various collections agencies. Individuals should also know what type of hospital or clinic they attended. Non-profit hospitals are likely to have charity or financial assistance programs that can help uninsured and cash-strapped patients cover their medical bills. Patients may have to meet certain income criteria, but the programs can be instrumental in getting a hefty bill reduced to a more manageable balance.
In some cases, the hospital may not be able to provide a significant reduction, but most facilities offer repayment programs that allow patients to make monthly payments, the same way they would with a credit card or mortgage. But it’s crucial to make each payment on time. Otherwise, the debt may go into default and have an adverse effect on a consumer’s credit standing. Individuals who choose this plan may have to re-arrange their budgets significantly to make room for their monthly payment, and visiting a professional, such as a credit counselor, can be pivotal in organizing their income properly.
Negotiating a bill is another option. In these scenarios, a hospital may agree to a significant reduction in the balance if patients can agree to make a lump-sum payment. This alternative is a possibility for individuals who have some money in the bank, but not enough to pay their bill in full.