5 Tips for Dealing with Medical Debt
Whether the result of an accident, injury or unexpected illness, anyone can suddenly find themselves facing a mountain of medical debt. It can be a scary feeling; especially when you’re trying to recover, regain strength and get your life back on track. While medical debt must be dealt with, it doesn’t have to take over your life or lead you into bankruptcy. Here are several strategies for dealing with medical debt.
Plan Ahead if Possible — While it’s impossible to plan ahead for an unexpected injury or illness, it is possible to do research ahead of time for things like elective surgery. In situations where time allows, do your homework to ensure the doctors and hospital you are planning to use are in-network and covered by your insurance. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk with your company’s benefits coordinator or call the insurance company directly. They will be able to help you navigate the ins-and-outs of your medical insurance to determine what’s covered.
Read and Review Everything — This is not the time to let mail pile up. Open all bills, statements and related correspondence the day they arrive so you know exactly what you’re dealing with. Learn to recognize the difference between an actual bill and an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) which comes from the insurance company and explains what they have already paid for. The EOB will give you an idea of what you will owe, but isn’t necessarily the final total you’ll need to pay.
Ask Questions and Follow Up — Review itemized statements line-by-line to ensure you are being charged appropriately. All medical billing is based on a system of codes, and mistakes can happen. If you are billed for a medication or procedure you believe you didn’t receive, call to dispute the charge. Additionally, if you believe your insurance was supposed to pay for something and didn’t, call the insurance company to find out why.
Investigate All Your Options — If you feel your medical debt is beyond your ability to pay — even by making payments over time — look into other options. You may qualify for your state’s Medicaid program. In some cases, Medicaid will pay for already incurred charges, but you must act quickly. Also, Credit Counseling and a Debt Management Plan to consolidate and reduce other debts may free up enough money in your budget to allow you to make payments on your medical bills.