One of the most common misconceptions about bankruptcies is that the majority are caused by irresponsible spending. While people consistently spending more than they can afford does contribute to some bankruptcies, that cause actually only accounts for a small percentage. So, what’s actually behind the majority of bankruptcy filings? Medical bills are the answer to that question. Once people learn this fact, they often attribute it to many individuals not carrying health insurance. However, that’s actually another misconception. Estimates show that more than ten million people who have health insurance still end up with more medical bills than they can afford.
What’s scary about both of those facts is they show that even if you think you’re on solid financial footing, the reality is that a significant medical emergency can completely throw your finances into turmoil. Although bankruptcy may be the only viable solution in some situations, the good news about this very real challenge is there are options that can work. To get an idea of what you can do to take control of this issue, let’s dive into several different strategies you may decide to utilize:
Because medical bills are so large, most doctors spend a significant amount of money each year in order to get patients to pay. Although medical professionals utilize collection agencies and attorneys, it’s not their preferred course of action. Additionally, most doctors don’t like the steep fees that go along with payments they receive via credit cards.
As a result of those issues, most medical practices are very receptive to cash. So depending on your specific situation, it may be worth getting as much as $10,000 in cash from a lender like LoanSource.com. Having that much cash to pay upfront can give you the ability to negotiate as high as a 40% discount off your total bill.
Be Sure to Check Your Charges
One of the biggest mistakes people make is automatically accepting every charge that a hospital puts on their bill. While it’s easy to understand why people think that exactly what’s printed is what they owe, as many as 40% of all medical bills have errors. Because that’s a very significant percentage, it’s definitely worth your time to carefully look over each line in every bill you receive. And if you come across anything that doesn’t look right, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call the billing department. The same is true if you believe certain costs should be covered by your insurer. Although either dispute may require you to be consistent and fight, doing so can ultimately save you quite a bit of money.
Don’t Underestimate Preventative Options
If you or a member of your family experiences a medical emergency, all that matters in that situation is immediately getting the care that’s needed. However, there are plenty of large medical bills that come from treatments that are essential but not immediately required. In that type of situation, it’s absolutely in your best interest to shop around and see the different options that are available.
There are two main areas that you can research. The first is how much hospitals in your area charge for the same procedure. In order to research this cost, the main piece of information you need to know is the CPT or HCPCS code of your specific procedure. As you get the cost from multiple hospitals, you may be quite surprised by how much of a difference there is.
The other area you can research is what kind of treatment and prescription options are available. Obviously, you want to get the level of care you need to protect your health. That being said, many people don’t realize that there’s often more than one way to stay healthy. While the majority of the population is familiar with the concept of generic medications, not nearly as many people know that it’s quite common for lower cost treatment options to be available as well. If you have a hard time discussing that with your current doctor, don’t be afraid to visit another physician who’s more open to discussing all available options with you.
Dealing with huge medical bills can be a significant challenge. And although it’s normal to feel very stressed out by the challenges these bills can pose, the important thing to remember is that you always have options. By not allowing yourself to get completely overwhelmed, you will be able to explore all your options and eventually find one that works for you.
Justin Carter is a financial counselor who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He works with people from all walks of life to help them find solutions to their biggest financial challenges.