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Six Tips to Paying Medical Bills You Can't Afford

Even if you have health insurance, you may at some point in your life find yourself struggling to pay your medical bills. Unfortunately, many people will end up cutting back on essential items such as food to pay medical bills that are outside of their budget. In fact, medical costs have become so high that you may even find yourself avoiding going to the doctor until something severe occurs. The bad news is, that you may not seek medical help until your condition has had a drastic effect on your health. The good news is, that there are a few tips you can follow to make paying high-cost medicals easier to get control of. 

1. Check Your Bills for Errors

As with any type of bills, there is a possibility that your medical bill can contain errors. Unfortunately, medical bills can be much more difficult to read and the costs not known before they are received, making errors harder to spot. To start with, always request an itemized bill so you can make sure that you were only charged for items you received. Next, when you receive your explanation of benefits, check to make sure that your insurance paid the amount it should have and that each item was processed through insurance. Since many procedures, such as imaging, have multiple bills from multiple companies, it is not unheard of for your insurance information to not make it to one of the providers. Another thing to check for is to make sure that your in-network benefits were applied correctly.

2. Discuss the Possibility of Financial Aid

Sometimes you may be able to take advantage of financial aid offerings a medical facility may have if your income falls within a certain range. This is most common with hospital visits where the facility may forgive a large portion of your bill if your income range would make it difficult to cover the expense. To possibly qualify, you will need to be prepared to prove your income with bank statements and paycheck stubs. While the reduced rates can vary, some financial aid programs provide you with up to 40 percent off. 

3. Compare Costs With Other Providers to Give You Leverage to Negotiate

If your income makes financial aid prohibitive, you will need to gather other information to try to negotiate down your price. Even though medical providers don't necessarily price match, they are businesses that are competing for customers so bringing it to their attention that their fees are considerably higher than other providers in the area may prompt them to consider discounting the costs of those services. If you strike out on your first call, don't give up. Ask to talk to someone higher up and respectively, yet firmly discuss your desire to have a fair price based on what others charge in the area. 

4. Inquire if They Offer a Prompt Pay Discount

Since medical pills can take a long time to be paid in full, many medical facilities will offer prompt pay discounts if bills are paid right away to help them increase their cash flow. This discount can run as high as 20 percent depending on the facility. Remember, sending medical bills to collections can come with an expense to the facility, so they are often more than happy to offer some sort of discount to prevent this additional expense. 

5. See if They Will Offer a Payment Plan

Many medical facilities will offer some type of payment plan even for small bills. Since healthcare is considered a necessity, they will offer to provide reasonable payment terms with little to no interest. This can take the shape of either a repayment plan directly through the facility or the offering of a medical expense credit card which usually will provide zero-interest financing for a promotional period. When setting up the plan to ask if they will send regular bills or statements and make sure you know when your due date is. Many facilities will cancel your plan for a late payment so make sure you try to get an amount you know you can afford. Remember, you can always pay more.

6. See if They Are Open to a Possible Settlement

Once a bill is in collections, collection agents will typically offer settlement options to wipe the debt clean. Since sending a bill to collections comes with an added expense, consider asking the facility if they are open to a settlement amount before it even goes to collections. This can often work for both parties since the facility will be getting more than they will if they send you to collections and you can get your bill paid off for less. 

Don't let large medical bills that you can't afford discourage you from seeking the medical treatment that you need. Consider the options above to handle your medical debts and try to limit the negative effects to your credit.

This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.