You know the problem with medical debt is? It stops people from getting the medical treatment that they need. But can you blame them?
With the high cost of getting health care, some people are opting to forego medical care to avoid putting themselves through debt. They know that they cannot afford to pay in cash and they also cannot afford to pay the debt that will be incurred because of it.
According to the statistics compiled by ACA International through their website, ACAInternational.org, 80 million adults in 2012 have delayed or skipped entirely a medical treatment and prescription because of the price it took to get them. In 2010, the people reported to have done this is only 75 million – still a big amount but not as big as the reported statistic in 2012. This data was taken from the survey done by The Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance in 2012. The same report also mentions that 28% of adults who have chronic illnesses have skipped doses of their prescription because it was too expensive.
The statistics also revealed that 41% of adults have existing medical debt and some of them are having trouble paying it back. 32 million people have mentioned that their credit scores suffered because of the debt that they owe on their medical bills.
This is a very sad situation to be in because you should never have to compromise your health for the sake of money. We all deserve to be treated for any ailment but our society has kept those who do not have the money or are buried in debt to forego this right.
7 things you must do when faced with medical bills
You cannot blame those who skip treatments because the health care costs are really over the top. The statistics compiled in HealthCareProblems.org revealed that the US has the highest healthcare expense at 15.3% of the GDP. This is according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. But while this is true the same website quoted some data from the Congressional Budget Office that revealed how the country is not using that money efficiently. It is mentioned that in 2006, ⅓ of the health care expenses, an amount reaching $700 billion, failed to improve health outcomes. Not only that, the prices of prescription drugs are 35% to 55% higher in the country compared to other nations.
This leaves the average American at a disadvantage because of our inability to finance our health care needs could lead to a lot of deaths. Our fear of medical debt ruining our lives is so great that we let our health fail without getting the professional help that we need.
Although this is a scary situation to be in, you have to understand that there are ways for you to deal with health-related costs and debt. You will still pay for them but there are certain tips that you need to follow to ensure that you will not be paying more than what you should.
If you think that a health insurance will help you, then you are misinformed. A lot of the people who filed for bankruptcy because of medical debt are those who have health insurance. It is the out of pocket costs that got them in the end. While this fact makes this type of debt seem unavoidable, there are ways for you to minimize the danger of medical bills ruining your future. Here are 7 tips that you can follow.
- Face the problem. Just like with credit card debt, you need to avoid ignoring the medical bills as they come. It may be stressful for you to see the numbers that you have to pay off. But remember that the only way you can solve the problem is if you have a clear idea of what you are up against. You only have a few months before this debt goes to collections so it is better to face it immediately.
- Pay attention to the explanation of benefits. If you have health insurance, the insurance company will send you a mail that contains the explanation of benefits or EOB. This will actually tell you how much you will have to pay for a particular medical care. In most cases, the EOB precedes the bill from your doctor. Make sure that the EOB covers everything that you are entitled to based on your health insurance policy.
- Double check costs that should be covered by the insurance. If there is something that should have been covered but it is not included, you might want to talk to your insurance company about it. That way, you can possibly lower the cost of what you have to pay for.
- Scrutinize the medical bill. Once the billing comes in, check every little detail to ensure that it only shows the medical treatment and service that you received. Sometimes, these billing statements contain errors that you have to point out immediately.
- Check if you can qualify for Medicaid or Medicare. These can be additional benefits that you can deduct from the amount that you have to pay for your medical bills.
- Pay off the debt. If you have to take from your savings, then go ahead and pay the bill in full. Just replace what you got from your savings. At least, with the whole medical debt paid off, you do not have to worry about any interest. But if your finances cannot afford a one-time big payment, call the doctor’s office to ask for payment terms.
- Find out your debt relief options. When you are negotiating payment terms with your physician, make sure you only agree to what you can afford. If not, then research the debt relief options that will help you get out of debt. You have debt settlement, debt management and even bankruptcy as your options.
How to avoid health-related debt in the future
NerdWallet.com revealed that 20% of Americans will struggle with medical bills this year. They compiled estimates that revealed how those under the age of 65 will have problems with unpaid medical bills, lower credit score, and a compromised budget.
But you should know that you do not have to be worried about medical debt if you have prepared for it. Make sure that you don’t have to worry about how to handle huge medical bills. Prevention is better than cure so here are two things that you need to do.
- Emergency fund. Building up your emergency fund will help you have the necessary finances to pay for your bills in cash. That way, once you get out of the hospital or pay for any service or prescription drug that you got, you can forget about the expense and concentrate on getting better. Also, having the money will keep you from hesitating in getting the medical attention that you need.
- Live a healthy lifestyle. We’ve mentioned that prevention is better than cure and we’d like to reiterate that here. If you take care of your body, you do not have to worry about seeking those costly medical treatments in the first place.
Medical debt can be tough to get rid of but it is not the end of the world. There are ways for you to succeed in paying it off. You just have to be aware of your options.