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Possible prescriptions for medical debt relief

Over 25% of Americans are having trouble paying off a recent medical bill, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the New York Times. But there are practical methods that may keep medical debt from becoming overwhelming.

An obvious but overlooked task is making sure that there are no overcharges for recent medical services. Doctors' offices and hospitals sometimes make billing errors. In fact, 80% of medical bills contain some errors according to some estimates. Bills should only contain charges for services and medications that were provided. If there is any charge that makes no sense or appears wrong, ask the health care provider for an explanation.

If a bill is correct, patients may also negotiate with health care providers for discounted prices. This option is important for uninsured patients because these patients are often charged inflated prices that patients rarely paid. Twenty cents on the dollar should be sought. Patients may also hire medical billing advocates. These are professionals who may be hired to closely review bills and negotiate on behalf of patients.

Even with negotiated prices, patients are expected to pay for some of the bill. A payment plan for equal payments over time is recommended if a lump sum payment is too costly. No interest or fees is more ideal to keep down the debt. Many hospitals, particularly nonprofit hospitals, often provide financial help. This assistance gives free or discounted care based upon eligibility.

Taking out a loan should be considered as a last resort, especially if the financial situation is expected to improve. A short-term loan may prevent debt collection and bankruptcy. Reasonable interest rates and manageable monthly payments are important. The best method, however, is to negotiate prices up front for non-emergency care. Paying cash at the beginning may lead to discounted prices.

Patients should call various health providers to compare charges and use lower prices as leverage to get a lower charge. Care that may be competently provided in a doctor's office or clinic is usually less expensive than a hospital.

An experienced attorney can help deal with debt collectors and provide options to deal with unmanageable debt, such as bankruptcy. They may also help protect rights.

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Mark T. Young & Associates
2895 Northpoint Blvd.
Hixson, TN 37343

Toll Free: 888-376-0282
Phone: 423-933-1606
Fax: 423-877-0363
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