How to Pay Medical Bills You Can't Afford: No Health Insurance? Establish an Affordable Repayment Plan

U.S. families are continuing to struggle with medical bills due to rising healthcare costs. Millions have no health insurance, a high deductible on their insurance or a pre-existing medical condition that excludes them from coverage.
How to Pay Medical Bills You Can't Afford: No Health Insurance? Establish an Affordable Repayment Plan

The person receiving treatment is liable for all hospital bills and medical debt accrued. Non-payment leads to medical providers passing on defaulted accounts to collection agencies, which ultimately leads to harassment, court action or a lien being placed on the family home. These problems have led to many people filing for medical bankruptcy.

No Health Insurance Statistics

  • 14.7% (43.8 million people) across all age groups had no health insurance.
  • 8.9% of all children had no coverage to help with healthcare costs and hospital bills.
  • 60.2% of unemployed and 22.2% of employed adults in the 18-64 age group had no health insurance for at least part of the year.
  • 33.3% of unemployed and 13.4% of employed adults in the 18-64 age group had no health insurance for greater than 12 months.
  • 19.2% of under-65's with private healthcare coverage had a high deductible.
  • At 22.9%, the state with the highest percentage of people with no health insurance was Texas.

* The above statistics were provided by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Charitable Assistance with Hospital Bills

Whilst poorly publicized, most hospitals (especially non-profit) offer charitable assistance to individuals who are unable to pay their medical bill. Whilst some assistance is only available to patients who have no health insurance, the terms vary considerably between medical providers. Always ask what help is available in relation to a hospital bill before accruing credit card debt or agreeing on any repayment plan.

Negotiate Medical Bills

If no charitable assistance is available with respect to a medical bill, talk to the medical provider to see if they are willing to reduce it. They may be prepared to reduce medical costs when performed in conjunction with a repayment plan. If this is the case, ask them to document this.

Ensure That a Medical Bill is Accurate

A number of medical bills are inaccurate so it is important to check them in order to identify errors and get them corrected. Hospital bills are often several pages long, but don't put them to one side. Compare the bill to personal records and check for things, such as the length of hospital stay, treatments received, medication and hours of surgery. If errors are identified, write directly to the hospital by certified mail. If the medical provider is unhelpful, file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA).

Avoid Credit Card Debt

Although unsecured, credit card debt attracts a higher rate of interest than outstanding medical bills. Collection agencies will still pursue the debtor for a repayment plan. Paying a hospital bill on a charge card is amongst the primary reasons for medical bankruptcy and should normally be avoided.

Negotiate a Repayment Plan with the Medical Provider

Medical providers realise that not all of their patients are going to be in a position to settle their medical bill in-full. Talk to them and agree upon an affordable repayment plan. Some providers may even be prepared to freeze interest on healthcare costs. Ask them to confirm the terms of the repayment plan in writing and stick to them. Should personal circumstances change, keep them informed.

Having no health insurance can lead to serious debt and even medical bankruptcy. Medical bills and treatment are extremely expensive, but are often negotiable should no charitable assistance be available. Always consult a qualified debt counselor before deciding on a course of action.

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