A visit to the hospital will get you feeling better physically but can also leave you mentally drained. This is especially true if you receive a big fat bill from your healthcare provider while you're still recovering from your illness. Medical debt can sometimes even be serious enough to cause bankruptcy, so it's best to tackle it head on from Day 1.
Here's a brief guide on some of the steps you need to take to be on top of your medical debt.
- Do Not Ignore Your Bills
This cannot be emphasized enough. You may be severely tempted to just let the bills slide, especially if you're still not a 100% fit after your illness. This is a bad idea because ignoring the problem won't make it go away. Medical debts will not show up immediately on your credit report but they will ruin your credit in the long run.[i]
Moreover, if you ignore your bills and don't respond to your healthcare provider there is a good chance your bill will be sold to a collection agency which will most likely be much more aggressive and persistent. Make sure you stay in touch with your healthcare provider and keep them updated even if you are planning to follow up with the insurance company or are otherwise unable to pay the bills immediately.
Also, make sure you file all the bills by date and keep them organized as you will have to keep referring to them while you're sorting your debt out. If you don't feel up to doing all of this yourself, consider asking a friend to be your medical advocate or even hiring a professional who will handle discussions for you.
- Check With Your Insurance Company
There is a good chance your insurance agency may not have paid for something they were supposed to pay for. It could be due to a misinterpretation of an item or a clerical error. Start by matching the codes in your hospital bill to the ones mentioned in your coverage and check for discrepancies.
If you find something that ought to have been covered by the insurer, do take it up with them. If you get a denial from the company, it's best to lodge an appeal as quickly as possible. Most insurers have a cap of 30 to 60 days when it comes to filing an appeal. Insurance companies are notorious for trying to get out of making payments so be prepared for a long drawn out battle. Do make sure you keep your medical provider apprised about the developments.
- Workout a Deal With the Hospital
If you were uninsured (or the insurance company is refusing to cover the bill) and you are simply not in a position to pay all your bills upfront, talking to the hospital administrator is a good idea.
There are two ways in which you can do this. The first is to look closely at all the items in the bill and see which are the ones that seem to be unnecessary or that look like major expenditures that you did not agree to. Another idea is to look at items that seem unreasonably expensive and compare your charges to the price at another comparable hospitable. You can then bring these to the notice of the administrator and tell them that it's unreasonable to expect you to pay for these at the billed rate.
The other option is to simply and honestly explain your financial position to the administrator. It is not the first time that the hospital would be seeing someone who is not in a position to pay their astronomical healthcare bills. They are generally sympathetic and chances are they will help you either by reducing your bill or by offering a convenient payment schedule.
- Managing Medical Debt
Medical debt is of the most crippling forms of debt you can be burdened with. However, you need to remember that you are not the only person suffering under this burden. Taking a proactive approach to finding solutions to mitigating your debt will go a long way in reducing this burden and helping you get out of debt.