In 21st century America, there may be no scarier words than “I have to go to the hospital.” This isn’t only because you might have a serious medical issue—it’s also because you could end up with a bill for thousands of dollars. Even if you have a healthy emergency fund you might feel the financial strain, and thanks to high-deductible health plans, even that might not be enough.
This doesn’t mean that you have to meekly sit back and sink into financial ruin, however. You have options when you’re hit with a large medical bill that will help you get out from under it.
How Financially Fit are you?
Review Your Bill
According to a report by the Medical Billing Advocates of America, 80% of all medical bills have at least one error in them. So the first thing you should do when you get a medical bill is to review it for errors. Check for duplicate services, as well as services you never received, and if you don’t understand a particular item, ask your medical provider to explain it.
You’ll also want to look out for a “surprise” medical bill, which is an unexpected bill from a medial provider that isn’t part of your health insurance company’s network. A federal law prohibits surprise medical bills, so if you believe you’ve received one you can file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Health or the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Once you’ve determined that your bill is accurate, and if you don’t have enough money to pay it, call your medical provider and try to negotiate. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this is so common that most people who try to negotiate their bill will end up getting it lowered. In some cases, your bill might be dropped completely!
Work out a Repayment Plan
Another common way to pay off a large hospital bill is to work out a repayment plan with the medical provider. Before calling, you’ll want to figure out how much you can afford to pay each month and for how long you’ll be making payments. You’ll also want to check with your medical provider about whether they’ll charge any additional fees for agreeing to the repayment plan so you can make sure the amount you’re paying is affordable.
Hire an Advocate
If trying to negotiate medical bills on your own is overwhelming, you can always hire a medical bill advocate to negotiate your bills for you. This can be especially useful if you’ve got several medical bills you need to pay.
Medical bill advocates offer several services, from reviewing your bills for unnecessary expenses to working out a repayment plan with the hospital that you can afford. The only caveat is that you will have to pay for a bill advocate’s services, so you’ll have to make sure the money you pay them won’t be more than the amount you’ll save on your medical bills.
Get a Loan
If you can’t work out a repayment plan with your medical provider, you may want to consider getting a loan. You will have to pay interest on the money you borrow, but you’ll at least be able to break your medical debt down into an affordable payment.
A personal loan is your best bet for paying off a medical bill. You can work with a lending advisor to get the amount you need with an affordable repayment plan, and you have multiple medical bills you can consolidate them into a single loan.
Get Help With Your Medical Bills at First Alliance Credit Union
A hospital bill can be intimidating, but you do have options for paying it off. Go through the bill to make sure you haven’t been overcharged, then talk to the medical provider to negotiate and work out a payment plan. You can hire a professional to help, too, just so long as you make sure you won’t spend more on their services than you’ll save.
You can also get help paying off hospital bills from First Alliance Credit Union. We offer home equity loans and home equity lines of credit, as well as personal loans and lines of credit. We also have traditional savings accounts and money market accounts where you can store your emergency fund.