Medical Debt Wars Part 3: How to Alleviate Your Medical Debt

Major Life Challenges Blog Series

We are taking a closer look at some of the big issues we all can face in our lifetime. Each topic will be featured as a blog series.

Medical Debt Wars Part 3: How to Alleviate Your Medical Debt

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In the previous parts of this series, not only did I say that I had been in medical debt (not of my own doing), I also said that I had medical debt from my own circumstances, such as not having a job that provided me with benefits or being able to be under my parents policy. A staggering amount of people in the U.S do not have health insurance and we're still a long way away before laws will change that. However, there are ways you can alleviate or avoid medical debt.

Medical Debt Wars Part 3: How to Alleviate Your Medical DebtAsk for a settlement payout 

A lot of companies who go after medical debt for health care providers, such as doctors or hospitals, know there's a chance every time they treat a patient without health insurance, they're not going to get paid. Even patients with health insurance risk not covering their entire bill because often patients are still responsible for co-pays and balances of medical bills for procedures & visits that health insurance providers chose not to cover.

After sending you a bill, health care providers hope you will pay before taking legal action for unpaid medical bills. It can take years for some health care providers to receive fees for their services, which is why they are willing to work with you, instead of not getting paid at all (which is very likely to happen in the first place if you don't have health insurance).

Many health care providers will be willing to "settle" with you for up to 50% off of your bill if you're willing to pay that amount that day. I learned from Dave Ramsey, that you should always ask for a bill with the new amount before you pay, and then make sure you have receipts and other proof to document the bill has been paid. You would be surprised how many times debt is re-sold even after it's been collected for, which is illegal.

Ask for payments

Sometimes, settlements are a no go; I've had a couple like that, but what I could afford were payments. If you can at least start making payments on what you owe, this shows you are acknowledging the debt and although you may not be able to pay it off at the moment; you are showing good faith.

If you do decide to take this approach, be sure to keep your payments in good standing as to not be reported to the credit bureaus.. If health care providers do not feel they're not going to get their money, they will sell the debt and it will be back to square one, which is frustrating. 

Seek assistance

In Las Vegas, there is a hospital that will refer you to a catholic charity who provides medical debt assistance. I applied and after showing proof of my income through paycheck stubs and bank statements, they decided to cover over 3,000 in medical bills in my honor.

My case worker told me that another one of her clients had been there over 20 times and all of his bills had been covered. Although I wouldn't suggest that extreme, if the assistance is there, it would be a good option. No one plans on getting sick and sometimes, not having health insurance isn't your choice.  

Look for low cost doctors and prescription plans 

Being without health insurance was frustrating, especially with bad health. Some doctors are willing to see patients for a set fee in cash instead of paying the full amount, especially since it can take months to receive payment.

I have also heard of a prescription plan called The Medicine Cabinet. The Medicine Cabinet is for people (like me) without health insurance that need medications. All of my asthma medication, including ProAir which runs close to $300 a month, was covered for a low monthly fee of $25. The help is there, you just have to look.  

Being without health insurance isn't the best thing, but with the right tools, you can and will rise above this point in your life.

My Name is Serendipity Smalls


SerendipitySerendipity Smalls is the writer behind Serendipity’s Guide To Savings. She lives in Las Vegas with her fiancée and enjoys the finer things in life, such as Starbucks, song lyrics and bad reality television. You can find her on her blog, Twitter and Facebook.


More from Serendipity:

Medical Debt Wars Part 2

Serendipity's Medical Debt Wars: Part One


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