Not Paying Medical Bills: Tactics to Handle Medical Debt

How prepared are you when it comes to clearing off your medical debt? Everything about handling medical debt needs to be well planned and managed. Otherwise, you will find yourself in a vicious circle of paying off debt with an increasing interest and battling to save your credit score. In this article, we will tackle about the different strategies with which you can manage your medical debt appropriately.  

Introduction

In the United States, treating a single illness, pregnancy, or accident could easily reach to thousands of dollars. Even if you have insurance, your medical bill will still leave you with an unbelievable amount of debt. Handling your medical bills should be considered a top priority, as it can cripple your personal finances. Needless to say, not paying medical bills is a very serious issue in the US.

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In this post, we will be talking about what happens if you don’t pay medical bills. Can it really affect your credit score? Luckily, we are also here to discuss the different techniques that you might want to consider when handling medical debt. After you have read this article, we hope that you will be able to apply this new knowledge before it shoves you into bankruptcy.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Medical Bills?

More than 40 million Americans are troubled with medical debt. The price of healthcare is rising and insurance coverage, even in working-class families, are now on shaky grounds. Indeed, Americans find it more and more difficult to handle their medical bills, especially for unforeseen emergencies or routine treatments. So, what happens if you leave your medical bills unpaid?

Late Fees And Interest

Upon receiving your medical bill, take note of the issuance date, also known as the date on which you get charged for the medical assistance or services you received. If you were not able to pay before this date, you are likely to be subject to late fees and interest payments on top of your medical bill.

The good news, however, is that these late fees and interest payments are not at all included in your medical bills, unlike other forms of debt. Another good thing is that several medical providers may get banned if they purposely tack on late fees or if they charge beyond the reasonable level of interest rates, depending on the state laws.

It would be in your best interest to read the paperwork very carefully before you sign anything or agree to the treatment. In addition, you need to make sure that you pay close attention to the terms of service to check if you can be charged for interest and late fees. This would be a great preventive measure so you will not get buried in medical debt.


Collections And Credit Score

Getting medical treatment is not and should never be an option, especially in cases of emergency. You should never consider refusing to get medical attention just because you think that paying the bill might be difficult for you. It would also be completely wrong to think that it is a burden having to handle the unpaid hospital bills, even after the treatment.

Even if you have the assurance that the medical providers will not hit you with interest and late payment fees, it does not mean that you should also hold off on paying your medical bills on time. Once you start having medical debt, and if the providers notice that there are no signs of you to pay it off, they may send your statement to a debt collections agency.

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You may already know this but these debt collectors specialize in annoying its creditors just to get them to pay the medical debt. You should be aware that lasting and real consequences await you if you have your medical bill sent to a collections agency. To add, it would be visible on your credit report and would certainly tank your credit score, especially if the bills go unpaid.


Lawsuits, Judgments, And Jail

If the collections agency was not able to get you to pay your medical bills, your debt would likely move onto the final phase: legal action might be taken against you. You should be informed that your medical provider could sue you if the bill goes unpaid and the court may assist and authorize measure including salary garnishment, in which money could be taken straight from your salary.

Thankfully, no one goes to jail for not paying medical bills. The laws also state that you would not get imprisoned if you fail to pay any kind of civil debt. While the severity of serving jail, time is not at all applicable for non-payment of hospital bills, we could not say the same for government-imposed payments such as taxes.

What Are the Different Tactics When Handling Medical Debt?

According to studies, medical debts were the cause of a large percentage of filed bankruptcies in the United States. What’s more alarming is that there is also a large percentage of those who filed bankruptcy with health insurance. In this section, we will be talking about the different techniques that may help you prevent bankruptcy.

Don’t Ignore Your Medical Bills

Ignoring your medical bills will not make them go away. Medical providers, as well as doctors, should try to collect on your account for a couple of months before they send your bill to a collections agency. As mentioned, it goes straight to your credit report and could potentially hurt your chances of borrowing money. In addition, it could result in a bank levy, a judgment, or salary garnishment.


Explanation Of Benefits Is Different From The Bill

Go through your mail just to be sure that you have the balance due. It is a common practice that the health insurance company sends the explanation of benefits, which explains what has been paid on your behalf. In addition, it provides you a head up to the incoming bill. If you were sent an explanation of benefits, expect to receive the bill from your doctor’s office soon.


Verify Which Items Were Covered By The Insurance Company

The preparation of medical bills is a very complex process and mistakes do happen. With this, you have to make sure that your doctor’s office charged the insurance company for the right services rendered. To add, you need to follow up with the insurance company to know why the bill was left unpaid. Doing this preventive measure could help you save thousands of dollars.


You Can Try Negotiating

It might be surprising to learn that medical providers have various pricing structures. For example, if you were being charged more than $1000 just for a couple of bandages, you have the right to argue with them. After all, the way the medical industry works is that they do not expect you to understand what you are being charged for, and what’s worse is that they can use it against you.

You would want to pay your medical bill if the insurance company is not willing to pay for it. You need to call them up and let them know that you might not be able to pay them anymore if they are not willing to do their part. You also might want to call up your doctor or you can try hiring a company that is willing to negotiate on your behalf.


You Can Also Try Paying It Off

If you have the money, whether, in an emergency fund or saving account, you may try paying the medical bill collections agency, especially the small ones. You just need to write a check and have it mailed to the billing address found on the bill. However, you should call your doctor’s office if you will not be able to pay the balance in full amount so you can set up a payment plan.


Make A Payment Arrangement

As mentioned above, you need to make a payment arrangement with your doctor’s office if you will not be able to pay the balance immediately. Doing this will alert the hospital’s billing department that you are not simply ignoring the bill. To add, inquire for a payment plan if you are held responsible for paying the balance due.

The most important part in making a payment arrangement with your doctor’s office is that you carefully review your finances to know which amount you can afford. In terms of your other bills, you need to try to make the payment on time every month. If you don’t practice this, your account might be sent to a collections agency, even though you have made your previous payments.


You Are Responsible For Your Child’s Medical Bills

You should never ignore your child’s medical bills from his or her doctor or an emergency room visit. You will be signing an agreement to pay for your child’s medical expenses that were not covered by your health insurance. If you ignore your child’s bill, it could hurt your credit score as it is your own medical debt.


Check If You Qualify For Medicaid

Medicaid is widely used by low-income US residents, who cannot afford to handle their medical care expenses. You should be informed that the criteria are different in every state. So, you must contact your state’s Medicaid office to know if you qualify. If you do, you can use Medicaid to pay for your future medical expenses or those that you have already incurred in the past.


Using Credit Card

If all else fails, you may try putting your medical bill on your credit card, just to prevent it from getting sent to a collections agency. This is not the ideal solution but the last thing you want is to have the collections agency bother you, especially when you are trying to recover from your treatment. To add, never sign up for medical credit cards without comparing it to its alternatives.


File For Bankruptcy

You may try getting help from the bankruptcy court if you don’t have any other solution to your medical bill problem. Did you know that your medical debt might be discharged completely if you qualify for Chapter 7? Also, you also have the option of filing a Chapter 13 repayment plan so you can pay the medical debt in three to five years time.

Deal With Debt Collections Agency

If your bill was already sent to the collections agency, you may try sending a cease and desist letter for them to stop bothering you about your debt. It should be noted, however, that the collections agency has all the right to report this debt on your credit score report, or sue you. In addition, they can also garnish your salary with the help of the court.

Here are some tips on how to deal with collections agencies:

  • Know what they can and cannot do: These collectors should never contact you an unreasonable number of times within the day, most between 8 am up to 9 pm. They should not call you at work, especially if you have asked them not to. They cannot make threats that they would sue you without a significant reason, tell you that you committed a crime through non-payment, or threaten to tell other people about your medical debt.
  • Have everything in writing and record phone calls: Even though things can get heated pretty quickly when dealing with the collectors, they still cannot make any threats against you. if they did, you have the right to sue them. With this, be sure that you record any phone calls with the agencies that call you. Once you reach an agreement, you need to get it in writing. Do not pay if you do not have the physical document or contract.
  • Offer to pay something: Debt collection agencies obviously want to get the full amount paid. If you can’t, you can be firm with them and try offering what you can at the time. You should, however, expect a counter-offer, as this is what they are supposed to do. If you can pay the whole debt, that would look great on your credit report.

Conclusion

Dealing with unpaid hospital bills or medical bill collections agency will only add stress, especially if you are recovering from a sickness. Even though it may be very difficult for you, we advise that you never ignore the medical bills. Once your debt involves a debt collections agency, your credit score may tank, making further negotiations even more difficult.

Have you learned something from this article? We will be delighted to hear some thoughts from you. Leave your comments below, and we will surely entertain them. Don’t forget to hit like and share this post as well. Happy reading everyone!

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