72 million. According to a survey from The Commonwealth Fund, that is the number of working-age Americans who deal with medical debt. In 2019, over half of bankruptcies that were filed in the U.S. were tied to medical issues. Unfortunately, medical bills can become quite expensive, but there are some things you can do to prevent a large bill, and things you can do if you receive one.
The Lasting Effects Of Unaffordable Medical Bills
Getting a huge medical bill, or a collection of medical bills, can easily lead to debt. healthcare services are not cheap, and if you do not pay your bills in a timely manner, you can lose your assets, have bad credit, and even negatively impact your health. When you get a medical bill, you usually have a grace period of 180 days before it goes into collections. If you still haven’t paid the bill after this grace period, your credit score will take a hit. Just one bill going into collection will drop a credit score anywhere between 50-100 points. Unpaid medical bills can stay on your credit report for up to 7 years.
If you use your savings to pay your medical bills, then you will not have enough to pay all other necessary bills, and you might need to get a second job. You could also lose your home, descend into debt, or worse. Not only will medical debt affect your financial situation, but it will also have an impact on your health.
If you have trouble paying your medical bills, it can take a toll on your health. People are less likely to seek medical care if they know they will face expensive bills afterwards. They fear that they won’t be able to afford care, so they don’t bother getting medical attention. This will only lead to their condition getting worse.
Avoiding Medical Debt
Want to prevent a large medical bill and avoid all of the ramifications of a bill you can’t pay? The first thing you should do is take a look at what kind of insurance plan you have. For example, high deductible plans can contribute to medical debt. These plans have low monthly premium costs, but a large deductible. They are best for people who are relatively healthy and do not need to go to the doctor for chronic conditions, or do not foresee any serious health issues.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 49 percent of those with private health insurance who report being significantly impacted by medical bills are enrolled in high-deductible plans. In fact, 64% of those in this group say their bills added up to $2,500 or more a year.
High deductible health plans are best for those who have some money saved up for deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses in case of a medical emergency. If you have one of these plans and cannot afford it, you can shop around and find other more affordable plans that meet your health needs.
What To Do When You Get A Large Bill
If you get an unexpected large medical bill, you do not have to lose hope, get another job, or file for bankruptcy. There are a couple of different approaches you can take if you find yourself with a large medical bill. You can:
- Negotiate Your Bill– Many people are unaware that you can negotiate your bill with the provider. If you do not feel comfortable negotiating, you can hire a patient advocate to do it for you. It can result in anywhere from 20-50% savings!
- Get A Payment Plan– If you cannot negotiate a lower bill, you can always ask to set up a payment plan with the provider. Some will charge interest, and some will not, but it is a good way to avoid a collection agency getting involved.
- Get A Personal Loan– If you feel like you cannot pay a bill, you can always get a loan to help pay off your medical debt.
- Get A Medical Credit Card– Much like a normal credit card, you can use this card for medical expenses. Find a company that offers 0% interest so you do not find yourself paying more than you have to.