Life has a brutal way of surprising us at the worst of times and health issues or accidents are one such thing that we can never be fully prepared for. If you are one of your loved ones has been hospitalized and you are stuck with unexpected medical bills that you can’t afford, there are a lot of things that you should be aware of.
Personal medical loans are an option that you can definitely look into but other ways could help you too. It’s better to learn about all your options before diving into anything. We have compiled a list of all the basics and steps you can take in such situations.
Steps to take when you have a medical debt
- Make sure the bills are accurate
Errors in bills in healthcare are way too common than they should be. Hence, make sure you always double-check every medical bill you are handed. Some of the most common mistakes in medical bills are charges for medications you never took or were changed later on, and treatments you never received. Occasionally they might up the room/bed charge too, so always pay attention to the charges and if you received all those services listed on it.
- Don’t ignore the debt
Your medical bill won’t be sent automatically to collections as long as you don’t ignore the bills. If your debt is sent to the collections, it will hit your credit score. When you have an unpaid medical bill, communicate with your healthcare provider that you are short on money and are actively looking into financial help options. Keep them in the loop so they know that you aren’t avoiding the bill.
- Find out your legal options as a patient
You have a few legal options that can help you take care of your medical debt; The Affordable Care Act, the No Surprises Act, and The Fair Debt Collection Practice Act.
- Affordable Care Act
This act mandates that people with low income be given discounted or in some cases, free emergency care. What counts as low income may vary from place to place, so check in with your hospital what their criteria are and what procedure you need to follow to apply for this.
- No Surprise Act
This act went into effect in January 2022. It protects people from unexpected medical bills from out-of-network healthcare providers that they didn’t choose during an emergency. This has a lot of nuances that you will need to understand but it’s worth looking into.
- Fair Debt Collection Practice Act
One of the most daunting things to put up with during this situation is responding to debt collectors’ calls and letters. The FDCPA detects what debt collectors can and can’t do while calling to collect the debt. You should always be aware of what they are allowed to do legally and what they can’t to protect yourself from harassment.
It can be tempting to ignore the calls and legal notices when they start rolling but that would make your situation worse. If your debt hasn’t been sent to the collections yet, you can still pay it off without damaging your credit score. Healthcare providers will keep the bills to themselves for a while but eventually, they will send it over to the collections. Once your debt has been sent to the collection, your credit score will take a hit and the debt will be on your credit report for about 7 years. Hence, be communicative with the healthcare providers and find a way to pay it off as soon as possible.