Medical debt is one of the main reasons why people file for bankruptcy or withdraw savings from their retirement accounts. People may develop an unexpected condition that requires extensive medical treatment. The cost of that treatment can make it difficult to pay for everyday expenses at the same time. Even routine health care comes with certain costs, and those expenses can quickly add up.
Medical debt is like any other type of debt. While it is necessary, it is also very difficult for many people to pay back. If the debt is not paid back promptly, a person may face lawsuits that could result in wage garnishment and other negative consequences. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), hospitals are now required to post their prices, which can help people avoid excessive medical debt. However, if you find that you already have a significant amount of medical debt in South Florida, below are some tips that can help you pay it off.
Check Your Bill for Mistakes
Too many people simply accept that the number on their medical bills is the price they must pay, but that is not always the case. Hospitals sometimes make mistakes, so it is important to ask for an itemized bill that covers all of the care you received. Check to ensure you were not double-billed, that the service you received was properly coded, and that your insurance information was entered properly. If you find you were charged for a service covered by your insurance, contact your insurer to find out why you did not receive coverage. You can likely submit an appeal or file a complaint with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.
Ask About Financial Aid
Under federal law, non-profit hospitals are required to offer financial assistance programs, as well as information about how to apply for aid. Hospitals, though, have the discretion to determine the eligibility criteria for these programs. If you qualify for financial aid through the hospital, you could receive a discount if you are below the federal poverty level, which could reduce your bill and make it easier to pay.
Negotiate with the Hospital Billing Department
Many people know that they can negotiate with a debt collector or even a creditor, yet they do not think to do it with their medical bills. Over half of patients that negotiated their medical bills were successful, according to a Consumer Reports survey conducted in 2018. There are several ways you can negotiate your medical bills. These include:
- Offer to pay a lump sum with a discounted amount: For example, tell the hospital billing department that you can pay the entire bill today if you receive a 25 percent discount.
- Compare costs with the listed price: Now that hospitals are required to post their prices, it makes it easier to determine if you have been overcharged for the treatment you received. If you have been charged too much, you can use it as leverage during negotiations.
- Be honest: Your negotiations will be more successful if you are honest about why you need help. For example, if you have recently lost your job, explain that to the billing department and they will be more likely to work with you.
If the amount of medical debt you have racked up is substantial, or the hospital has already threatened to take legal action, you should work with a debt defense lawyer in South Florida that can negotiate on your behalf.
Ask About an Interest-Free Repayment Plan
Hospitals are sometimes willing to allow patients to divide their debt into a manageable payment plan that is interest-free, and they do not even always require a credit check. It is important to note though, that if the hospital does agree to a payment plan, they may not offer the same type of discount they would have if you paid the amount in one lump sum. Hospital repayment plans also typically only last for one or two years, although some offer longer periods, which can break up the payments even more.
It is crucial to not agree to any type of repayment plan if you do not think you can afford the payments. Medical providers are just like other businesses and if you do not make payments on time, they may send the account to a debt collector. The debt collector may then take legal action which could result in wage garnishment and other negative consequences.
Pay with a 0% APR Credit Card
If you have good credit, you may qualify for a credit card with a zero percent annual percentage rate (APR). Most of these offers last for approximately 18 months. After that time, the interest rate on the credit card may jump to anywhere between 16 and 19 percent, so it is important to be aware of that fact, too. There are also credit cards designed specifically for medical bills. Still, like arranging a repayment plan with the hospital billing department, it is important to only use a credit card if you know you can make at least the minimum payments. Otherwise, you could again face legal action.
Take Out a Personal Loan
When you take out a personal loan, you can use it for virtually anything you want, including your medical expenses. The advantage of a personal loan is that you always know the interest rate you are paying, and the payment is a fixed amount, which may make it easier to budget. The biggest disadvantage of personal loans is that they are difficult for many to obtain and are typically reserved for borrowers with very good credit.
Facing Legal Action Over Medical Bills? Our Debt Defense Lawyers in South Florida Can Help
If you cannot pay your medical debt and a hospital or debt collector has taken action against you, our South Florida debt defense lawyers can help with your case. At Loan Lawyers, we know how to fight against debt collection lawsuits to give you the best chance of a successful outcome. Call us today at 954-807-1361 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.