TALK ABOUT TRAUMA. THE last thing most people need after a frightening or painful medical procedure is an equally terrifying hospital bill.
“The impact of unexpected, high medical bills can be really devastating and stressful to individuals and families,” says Maureen Lamb, CEO and founder of Medical Bill Support, which works with health care consumers to reduce medical costs.
In fact, about one-quarter of U.S. adults say they or a member of their household have had problems paying medical bills during the past year, according to polling results from the Kaiser Family Foundation published in June 2019. About half of that group said medical bills had a major impact on their families.
But don’t despair. Health care consumers have a range of options when it comes to tackling medical debt. Here’s what to know if you can’t repay your medical bills:
- Understand what happens when bills go unpaid.
- Check your medical bills for errors.
- Negotiate medical bills.
- Get help paying the medical bills.
- Consider filing bankruptcy for medical bills.
Read on for more information about each debt payoff strategy.
Understand What Happens When Bills Go Unpaid
After a period of nonpayment, the hospital or health care facility will likely sell unpaid health care bills to a collections agency, which works to recoup its investment in your debt. The amount of time before a debt goes to collections can vary depending on the health care provider, location or service received. But once the debt is in collections, it can continue to haunt you as collections agents call, write and text to request repayment. Having a bill in collections also dings your credit score, with collections listings remaining on your FICO credit report for up to seven years.
You can’t make medical debt and hospital bills disappear by ignoring them, experts say. “The biggest risk of ignoring debt is that the creditor or collector will file a lawsuit against you,” says Amy Loftsgordon, foreclosure, collections and debt management editor at Nolo, a publisher of do-it-yourself legal books and software, via email. “If you then also ignore the suit, a court will most likely award the creditor a default judgment, which is an automatic win.”
While having a medical bill in collections is never a good idea, remember your rights when dealing with debt collectors. They can’t harass you, lie to you, threaten to arrest or deport you or call you in the middle of the night. You can take the time to confirm the debt is yours and try to negotiate …….Read More>>