7 Tips to Battle the Beast that is Medical Debt

Medical debt can be a scary thing to have to overcome. Whether it’s yourself or a loved one battling it, medical debt isn’t something that’ll just go away. So here today we have Andy Masaki from Penny Less Dad to talk to us about ways to end your medical debt crisis.

Got into medical debt after a freak accident? Here’s what you could do:

Accidents can happen anytime and anywhere. A freak accident can cost you dearly. One of the non-lethal outcomes of an accident is the medical debt.

Overwhelming medical bills drive most people to bankruptcy. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) states that 20% people will have to encounter collection agencies for medical debt. Most of these Americans don’t know their options.

Medical debt contributes to more than half of all bankruptcies, according to NerdWallet, a financial website. To foot their exorbitant hospital bills, people who are insured are forced to bootstrap. One of the most pressing issues found amongst people with medical debt is their lack of bill repayment options.

To break such a vicious trend of medical debt, here’s what you could do to become debt free successfully.

Find out what feeds the bill

When you’ve armed yourself with price range information, it’ll help you to start the discussion with an upper hand. You may check your insurance carrier’s online portal and that of the other leading insurers to check for the recent negotiated rates. Websites like Healthcare Blue Book, New Choice Health, and Vimo can make your job of the market survey a lot easier. In a matter of few clicks, you’d know the amount of fees exacted by the local doctors and hospitals and you’d also get to know the discount amount provided by the insurance carriers.

To find out the average full list price of a particular treatment, you’ll have to type in the name of the procedure and compare the cost of the treatment with that of the negotiated national average price.

Use words that kill

As soon as you’ve got the price reference points, you could talk to your doctor’s billing person or the hospital’s patient billing manager, and say things like “My bills are too high. I’d appreciate if you could adjust the bills to be more affordable.” or “My health insurance coverage falls short of compensating this treatment of my own and would be glad to see if you can cut the price.”

When things get personal, it might help. Mention the sources of glowing recommendations to your provider. It’s always nice to get appreciated for the hard work you’ve put in. But don’t overdo that. If you’ve been recently laid off, say it to the person in charge of billing. You’d be surprised to see how smilingly your provider’s billing staff may offer you a break.

In another instance, you can offer to pay cash upfront. When speaking to your doctor say, “I’ll be paying you out-of-pocket this time. Would you be willing to see me for the same amount I paid you through my health plan in all these years?”. If your offer is accepted by your doctor, then that could lead to a neat 40% discount.

Moreover, ask for financial assistance plans when in a hospital. The fact is that these plans aren’t just for the poor. Even for a person who earns $100,000 a month, but has $50,000 medical debt to repay, can qualify.

Harp on the outpatient centers

Certain surgeries scheduled at a hospital that may require an overnight stay can be performed in a more affordable outpatient center. Ask your surgeon whether or not your surgery could be performed at an outpatient center. May be your doctor chose a hospital for a variety of medical reasons, but you’d lose nothing for asking.

Treat first negotiate later

Now, if you’ve already undergone a procedure and your medical bills have started to skyrocket, then you may first try seeking a discount to keep it manageable. Your request may be granted pretty quickly as hospitals prefer to strike the charges off their books instead of pursuing a cumbersome collection process. Don’t settle for a 10% or 20% discount. That’s nothing when compared to what they are charging. Rattle everyone in the organization’s management hierarchy – from the billing manager to the vice-president of finance, and build relationships with the help of your story.

Keep everything documented. Write down every person’s name, title, and contact information you’ve spoken to. Not just that, jot down the date and time you called and what conversation you had with each person. When you’ve reached a settlement, ask for a written agreement.

Pay off medical bills as agreed to avoid delinquency and collection harassment.

Ditch the plastic

Never use a credit card, even if you’ve planned to ask for a discount later. Your bargaining position will lose steam if you use credit cards to pay off your medical bills. This is because hospitals lose interest in negotiating with you for payments, once they’ve got their due. Credit cards come with a high interest rate, and that would accelerate your medical debt burden faster.

Ask for a plan

If your request for a discount on your medical bills has fallen on deaf ears, you may ask for an interest-free payment plan. This kind of payment plan will provide you with an opportunity to build a good rapport with the hospital authorities by making timely bill payments.

After a year or so, remind the hospital’s billing office, “I’ve been regularly paying my hospital bills for almost 18 months now. Would cancel the rest of the bill. My family is having a tough time dealing with this crisis.”

Stand on the shoulder of a giant

Finally, when you see that the hospital or doctor isn’t giving you a discount and your medical debt is getting out of control, you can approach a non-profit or professional advocate to help you bargain for a fairer deal.

Suppose, you’ve been injured in an accident and your carrier won’t foot your medical bills, and you’re battling a personal injury case (because the law found you guilty, or there’s a lack of evidence or whatever reason it might be), then you’ll be liable to pay for your medical bills entirely. In such a worst-case scenario, you have little options to fight back and pay for the treatment cost out of your pocket. To pay off your outstanding medical bills and become debt free, you may either turn to your family and friends for financial help or consider filing for bankruptcy.

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Author: Andy is a blogger at Penny Less Dad and financial writer associated with the Oak View Law Group. He is a debt expert and a member of several online forums where he shares his advice as well as tips to lead a financially independent life. Follow him on Twitter.

 

Have you ever had to battle medical debt?

What did you do to overcome it?

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