Since 2013, the number of uninsured Americans has fallen nearly 15 million, due largely to the Affordable Care Act. But does health insurance guarantee financial security? Not according to a poll recently conducted by the New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Nearly 20 percent of people under age 65 with health insurance reported having trouble paying their medical bills during the previous year. Of those, 63 percent indicated have used up most, if not all, of their savings; nearly half were forced to take on an extra job or work additional hours; and still others moved, took in roommates, or sought help from a charity.
And surmounting medical bills aren’t simply keeping folks from the recommended annual trip to the doctor; they are provoking serious financial and personal sacrifices and affect nearly every aspect of our daily lives, including credit, housing and employment.
Unfortunately, many people with hefty medical debt feel as though they have no choice but to ignore the bills or file for bankruptcy. However, there are other options. Here are a few ways to manage those seemingly insurmountable medical bills.
Check the bills. Although the bottom line may make your jaw drop, don’t forget to look at the details. Medical bills are often inflated and you may find errors that could save you money. If you find that you were billed for something you shouldn’t have been, contact your provider to have the charge removed. For those with insurance, also check to make sure your insurance company paid their portion. If your claim is denied, contact your insurance carrier, as most will allow you to appeal the decision. If you’re able to provide evidence to support why the treatment should have been covered, such as a note from your doctor, the denial may be overturned.
Ask for a repayment plan. Don’t panic if you cannot pay a bill in full. Most providers will permit you to make smaller payments until the bill is paid off. Think about how much you can afford to pay on a monthly basis and communicate that to your provider. Few people will refuse money, regardless of the amount.
Look for help. Many hospitals receive funding to cover the bills for patients who cannot afford to pay themselves. Call the hospital’s billing department to see what programs they have in place. Be sure to ask about the application process what the qualifications are.
Plan ahead. Chances are, this won’t be your last medical bill. Getting sick from time to time is a part of life. Putting money aside today, even a small amount, will make it easier to pay those bills tomorrow.
So while that stack of medical bills may be incredibly large, remember that are a number of options to help you through the bill-paying process.
By Abby McNamara, Prosperity Connection Staff
Source: “Even Insured Can Face Crushing Medical Debt, Study Finds” NY Times (2016).