A recent survey found that more than 20% of Americans think they will never pay off their medical debt. Medical debt is one of the toughest debts to get rid of, so it’s no surprise so many feel like they’re drowning in debt. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to get your finances back on track after a visit to the hospital. Here’s what you need to know.
Why medical debt is a severe issue
Medical debt is a severe issue for many Americans. This is often due to the high cost of medical care and the fact that many people do not have adequate health insurance or extremely high deductibles that leave them footing the bill. According to a recent study, medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S..
The fear of having medical debt can be disastrous for those who feel they can’t afford to go to the doctor, leading to many putting off pains or issues that end up being more costly later on. Further, medical debt’s added stress can worsen health issues.
What you can do to reduce your medical debt
If you’re on the receiving end of a high medical bill that’ll put you in debt, there are a few things you can do:
- Contact the hospital’s billing department – Most of the time, your health insurance will cover a significant chunk of your medical costs, and the bill you received might just be in error. Contact the billing department to ask if your insurance was billed or not.
- Request an itemized bill – If you’re only partially covered by your insurance, request an itemized bill to see exactly what was paid and what wasn’t. This can help you dispute any charges that you feel were unnecessary.
- Negotiate with the hospital – Many hospitals have various discounts and payment plans available, so it might be worth negotiating a lower price or terms on your bill.
How to prevent yourself from getting into debt from medical bills
The simplest way to ensure you won’t get into medical debt is by taking steps to keep yourself healthy. Obviously, there are some things you can’t plan for, but getting routine check-ups, eating healthy, and exercising regularly can go a long way in preventing you from ending up in the hospital.
Next, review your health insurance plan every year to ensure it’s adequately covering your needs. Many states have health insurance exchanges that offer different levels of healthcare plans that aren’t tied to an employer. Depending on your income level and the state where you live, you may even qualify for subsidies that reduce your monthly premiums.
Finally, if you have an upcoming medical need that you know will be costly, consider looking into medical tourism. This is a growing trend in which people travel to countries like Thailand or Mexico to receive high-quality medical care at a fraction of the cost of American hospitals. While medical tourism isn’t always reliable, it can be a great way to get quality medical care without breaking the bank.
The bottom line
Medical debt is a serious issue for many Americans. By taking steps to reduce your debt and protect yourself from high-cost medical bills, you can hopefully get your finances back on track.