A simple slip or a serious health issue can result in thousands of dollars in medical bills. There are more than 45 million Americans without health insurance, nearly half of which have outstanding medical debts, averaging $9,000 per person. Even if you have insurance, you could end up with catastrophic debt or even in bankruptcy. Among those with insurance, more than 60% report having medical debt problems. In fact, 75% of people who filed for bankruptcy because of medical debts had health insurance.
There are a number of issues that hospitals and other healthcare providers engage in that only make matters worse. For instance, it has been shown that more than 70% of patients with medical debts are never offered financial assistance from their providers. In fact, uninsured and poor patients are routinely charged much higher prices for their treatment than others. In some cases, the spouses of patients are pursued for payment even if they don’t live in a common law state.
When it comes to your credit score, an unpaid medical bill is just as damaging as any other unpaid debt on your credit report. And, while medical bills don’t generally show up on your credit report until they have been sent to collection agencies, when that happens, it can lead to serious credit score damage. When health care providers sell debts to collections, file judgments, and obtain liens, they are damaging your credit profile. Not to mention the fact that some health care providers have strict policies in place that deny healthcare to patients who owe money for previous treatments. Altogether, these abusive debt practices can lead consumers with health problems to destroy their credit, lose their homes, or file for bankruptcy. Without an understanding of their rights and possible solutions, many patients are stuck facing a financial crisis at the same time as a health crisis.
So, if you’re sick of medical bill debt and what it’s doing to you and your financial standing, what can you do?
- First, know your options. Evaluate all the insurance, Medicaid, and charity options available to you. This takes time, but it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid to ask – and keep asking – the medical billing office questions about your options.
- Second, review your bills closely. Mistakes are common, and if you find errors, challenge them.
- Also, avoid financial traps by paying your most important bills (such as your mortgage) first, before you pay medical bills, and of course, never use a home equity loan to pay expensive medical bills.
Finally, call the credit counseling and debt professionals at The Credit Repairmen. We work with clients and creditors to improve credit profiles and find solutions to debt challenges. Don’t let medical debt make your health crisis a financial crisis. Let The Credit Repairmen work with you, the credit bureaus and your creditors to navigate your way through your medical debt and make sure you get – and keep – the highest credit score possible.