Medical Bills and Credit
Many times these days, people have more plastic than cash. With the economy foundering, many people find themselves running short of money on payday or before it even arrives. So, when money is so short, what should you do if you have unexpected or catastrophic medical bills that you cannot pay?
If you are a low income consumer, you do not need to accrue more debt by trying to pay your bills with credit cards; instead, you need to lower the amount of monthly spending. You don’t want to be one of the more than 1 million consumers loaded with debt who are declaring bankruptcy.
Medical Bills and Credit Cards
• Don’t pay medical or hospital bills with a credit card
• If there is absolutely no other way, don’t charge more than you will be able to pay back on payday.
• Find another way to pay the bills.
• Ask the Accounts department if they can negotiate a better price for you due to your circumstances.
• Offer to make payments on the amount owed.
• Before agreeing to treatment, check to see if the same treatment can be garnered at another place at a better (lower) price.
• Check your savings and see if a withdrawal to cover the procedure is possible.
• If you are extremely cash poor, ask the hospital about their charity program. Many hospitals have programs that consider your income (and outgo) and then reduce your bill accordingly. It is called “forgiving the debt.” The debt is wiped off the books and you will never be billed for it.
• If you qualify, you can register with social services for their Medicaid programs. These programs are based on circumstances and income (or lack thereof) and if you qualify will pay your medical bills except for small co-pay ($5-$10).
Medical bills and credit debt can be a scary thing for most people. Most doctors, service providers such as x-ray and anesthesiologists, and hospitals bill their patients and then turn the unpaid bills in to a collection agency for them to recoup. Do not be afraid if you receive letters that are less than pleasant or telephone calls asking you to pay. Remember that these companies are regulated and are not allowed to bully you. If you are contacted, offer to pay a minimum amount ($10) in good faith or just tell them that you do not have the money but will pay when you can. Don’t ignore them and hope they will go away; they won’t.
Hospital emergency rooms must treat you if you come to the hospital (unless they are a privately owned and funded entity). If they accept Federal funds such as Medicare and Medicaid, they cannot, by law, turn you away at the time of an emergency.
If your doctor’s office tries to refuse service to you until you pay your outstanding bill, talk to the person that handles the payments and work out a payment plan that will show that you are working in good faith to pay the bill and not just ignore it.
There is a medical credit card entitled CARE CREDIT. If you have this card, you can pay medical bills, dental bills, eye doctor bills, veterinarian bills to offices that accept this card without interest being added to the amount charged for service. This allows you to defer total payment for a period of time chosen according to the rules of the card issued to you and not have to worry about an additional amount being added to the amount that you already owe.
Before you pay any medical bill, check to see that the billing on the statement is accurate. If you disagree with any billing, call the billing office at once and dispute it. Some people have found double billings and items charged that were not performed or given to the patient.
If you need help with your finances and are really unable to make your medical bills and credit payments, go to your church and talk to the pastor there. Some churches have funds they can make available or can hold fund raisers to help out.
Be certain to ask any new provider about the company policies regarding payment at time of service, time payment, refunds and what their finance rate is if you finance the treatment or procedure.
Everyone has seen the AFLAC duck commercial. Disability insurance is a good idea if you have a job where the market is shaky and fear that you will be laid off. You will be protecting your family in case of job loss by insuring money still comes in on schedule.
There ARE non-profit credit counseling companies. Two of these are: GREEN PATH #866 476 7284 and ACCESS PROJECT $866 918 5233 (xt.231) (this last on is a medical credit counselor and a good place to call for medical debt resolution advice). If you wish to know if a credit counselor is accredited, contact: The National Federation of Credit Counselors or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.
Be certain to know the limitations of any health insurance that you have. Also know exactly what sort of co-payment amount is expected of you in any given situation. If your insurance refuses to pay, you can file a complaint and, while you are waiting for them to decide whether or not to pay after all, your account can be turned over to a collection agency. It is your credit that will be affected; not the insurance company’s.
Make all of your medical credit payments on time so that there will be no problems with your credit. Don’t use credit cards unless it is a matter of life and death (and even then look for another way). If you so use a credit card for any reason, be certain you know the interest rate and make your payments on time. You don’t want your $10,000 bill to turn into a $15,000 bill because of accrued interest.
Medical Bills and Credit When to Use Credit to Pay Medical Bills
Medical Credit is a phrase becoming more popular in today’s vocabulary. Medical costs are skyrocketing daily. Managed care has found its way into hospitals and doctor’s offices making your health more their business than yours. These high prices are bad for your health and so is non-payment of medical debt. Remember to pay something, no matter how small, in order to show good faith and not be labeled a “dead beat debtor”.
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