If you or someone in your family has spent time being treated at a hospital recently, you know how expensive medical care is. Whether someone suffers a serious injury from a car accident, faces a cancer diagnosis or experiences a heart attack, the costs mount quickly, almost instantly becoming overwhelming.
While patients with top-notch insurance may be covered, that’s the exception rather than the norm. For most people, whether they have insurance or not, these high costs come out of the blue and threaten any financial stability they had. Add job loss or other debt issues to the mix and it’s easy to see why unpaid medical debt has become a huge problem. If you’re facing medical bills you can’t pay, you’re not alone. So what can you do?
Strategies for emerging from medical debt
While the stress of the situation might make you feel hopeless, you do have options. Here are some of the best:
- Contact the health provider. Be up front about your situation. How much are they willing to take? Isn’t something better than nothing? Try to keep your cool and don’t place blame on anyone. See if you can negotiate. Work out a payment plan, if possible.
- If you don’t enjoy negotiating, look for someone to do the job for you. You can hire a professional to deal with the hospital. Negotiators know the ins and outs of medical fees and are familiar with all the terms and tactics hospitals use. Or, perhaps someone in your family excels at making these kinds of calls; reach out to them.
- Find out if there is financial assistance available, and if so, apply for it. You may also qualify for help from a nonprofit or charity that supports patients with certain conditions or diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis or breast cancer (to name just a few).
- Crowdfunding is a new and growing area for those seeking help to pay medical bills. Campaigns by Kickstarter, GiveForward and others use social media to spread the word. You’d be surprised by how much money campaigns can raise.
- File for bankruptcy. While that may sound daunting, it will give you the opportunity to clean the slate and recover from the unexpected costs that are no fault of your own. While your credit report will be damaged initially, the sooner you file, the sooner you can start repairing it. And you won’t have the stress of massive debt interfering with your or your loved one’s recovery.
If you have any questions about how to handle unmanageable debt, it’s a good idea to contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options.