Unpaid medical bills can wreck your credit and lead you to bankruptcy. According
to AARP, 1.85 million Americans go bankrupt
in a year due to medical bills. When insurance doesn't cover all your medical
expenses, you have to. If your physician doesn't get payment from you or your
insurance company, he'll turn your account over to a collection agency who will
try to get you to pay.
Once the collection agency has your medical bill, it will pull out all the stops
to get you to pay - calling, sending letters, and even reporting your overdue
bill to the credit bureaus. A collection account indicates a serious
delinquency. The unpaid medical bill ends up damaging your credit score
and your ability to get credit cards and loans for the next seven years.
Bankruptcy can hurt you for up to 10 years.
Video: Negotiating medical debt and unfair medical billing
Medical Debts and Lawsuits
You can be sued if you don't pay your medical bills. If the hospital or debt
collector wins the lawsuit, you can have your wages garnished. (These states don't
allow wage garnishment: North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and
Don't ignore a medical bill lawsuit notice. If you do, the hospital
automatically wins. If you receive a lawsuit summons, seek assistance from an
experienced attorney to find out how you should proceed.
Children's Medical Bills
As a parent, you're responsible for paying for your minor child's medical bills.
When you took your child to the hospital, you likely signed paperwork stating
that, as the parent/legal guardian of the child, you accept financial
responsibility for services not covered by insurance. Just as with your own
medical bills, you can be sued for your child's unpaid medical debt.
Get Help Paying Your Medical Debt
There are quite a few resources you can use if you can't afford to pay your
Work with the hospital. Most people don't realize they can settle medical
debts directly with the hospital. Do this as soon as you receive the bill to
keep the debt from being assigned to a debt collector. Contact the hospital's
billing office to discuss payment arrangements based on your ability to pay.
Use government programs. Your hospital bill may be covered by Medicaid or
Medicare, two government health insurance programs. If you were not enrolled in
either at the time of service, your bill can be retroactively covered as long
as you enroll in one of the programs within three months of medical service.
You qualify for Medicaid if:
You are over 65
You receive or are eligible to receive Social Security or Railroad benefits
You or your spouse was covered under Medicare at a government job
Certain individuals under the age of 65 with disabilities or end-stage renal
disease can receive Medicare benefits. Visit
www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-663-4227 to find out more about
Medicaid is a needs-based program that's managed by your state's health
department. Each state sets its own guidelines about eligibility and services
provided. You can use the
Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website or call
1-877-267-2323 to get your state health department's contact information.
Seek out a charity. Community-based charity programs may help you pay your
medical bills. You can find federal, state, local, and private programs
by visiting www.benefitscheckup.org.
Use a medical credit card. A few large health insurance companies
partnered with banks to offer health care credit cards that can be used
to fill the insurance gap - the difference between what you owe and what your
insurance company pays. Though having a high credit card debt isn't the best
idea, it's better than the alternatives of harassment from debt collectors,
wage garnishment, and bankruptcy.
Take out a consolidation loan. Depending on your credit rating, you may
be able to take out a loan to consolidate your medical debt. Contact your bank
to find out whether you qualify for a loan or fill out the form above.
Medical bills can be quite overwhelming, making it may seem like bankruptcy is
the only option. It isn't. Because of the life-altering effects of bankruptcy,
it's best to exhaust all the other alternatives available. You'll be surprised
- and relieved - to see just how much help you can get with your medical debt, call 888-314-1403 to speak with a certified