If you have had a medical emergency, are dealing with a major health issue, or if you have a family member that needs medical attention, your medical bills are most likely piling up. And, unfortunately, accrued medical bills often lead to medical debt, which is something that many Americans are all too familiar with. In fact, 59% of people who have been contacted by a debt collector say that it was because of medical debt, and more than 27 million Americans lack any health insurance to help them cover their medical expenses.
It’s clear that paying off medical debt is not always possible, but what you might be unaware of is that your medical debt can be forgiven! Depending on your household income level, and if you meet certain requirements, you can get a large chunk of, if not all of, your medical debt forgiven.
First, Check The Bill
If you receive a large bill from a doctor or hospital, the first thing you should do is check if it’s actually correct – shockingly, experts estimate that 30 to 40% of medical bills contain errors. These mistakes can be due to coding errors, being incorrectly billed for procedures or services you didn’t receive, or getting double billed. You always have the right to contact your insurance company to question any medical bill, and you should always contact your provider’s billing department to ask for clarification on any bill that is unexpected or seems unusual to you.
Next, Check Medical Debt Forgiveness Programs
If the bill is legit, but you cannot afford it, be aware that your hospital bill could be waived completely, or significantly reduced, depending on the state you live in and your income level, so be sure to look into medical debt forgiveness programs.
How does medical debt forgiveness work? Well, the Affordable Care Act has certain requirements for nonprofit hospitals with 501(c)(3) IRS tax status concerning their financial assistance policies for low-income patients; even if the hospital in question is not a nonprofit, state laws specify standards for how much financial assistance a hospital has to provide a patient of a given income level. For example, in Maine, all hospitals have to provide free care for patients whose household income is up to 150% of the federal poverty level. Medical debt forgiveness is generally provided on a sliding scale, which means that if your income does not qualify for full forgiveness, you can still qualify for partial forgiveness.
To find out more, call the hospital where you incurred your debt and ask about qualifying for the hospital’s financial assistance policy, or what some hospitals call “charity care.” When applying for medical debt forgiveness, generally hospitals will ask for your tax return, pay stubs, and whatever else is necessary to prove your income and household size.
If You Don’t Qualify, See If You Can Set Up A Payment Plan
If you don’t qualify for a debt-reduction program, or if your bill was not incurred at a hospital, there are other options for reducing your medical debt, including asking the doctor or hospital if you can pay a smaller amount in one lump sum, or set up a payment plan. If you choose to offer a smaller lump sum, you can get your bill reduced by as much as 20 to 40%. But if that is not possible, you can work out a payment plan with the hospital or doctor, which could be as little as $20 a month if that’s all you can afford – just be sure to ask if you can pay off the bill without any interest added.
Medical debt is sometimes unavoidable, and it can take a big toll on you. If you’ve received a bill that you’re struggling to pay, remember to first check if an error has been made. If that is not the case, you still have options: you could even get your medical debt forgiven depending on the state you live in and your income level. The best way to find out if you can dissolve your medical debt is to find out your specific state laws – and the best way to avoid medical debt in the first place is to make sure that you have a good health insurance plan that will meet your medical and financial needs. There are plenty of affordable plans out there! To get free instant quotes, simply enter your zip code in the bar above, or to speak to a local licensed agent, call 888-350-1890.