We Tell You How to Avoid Medical Debt or Get Rid of It Completely – Part 2
During Treatment or Soon After
Request detailed costs for all services, prescriptions, or treatments received and monitor costs as these occur, advise experts. Ask family members or a support group to help you keep track, despite insurance cover for your treatment and everything else. Scrutinizing costs can help curb costs. Purchase Tylenol yourself, to avoid exorbitant hospital mark-ups on the medicine. Self-advocacy begins with pressing for costs for each service, treatment, and medication in advance, if possible.
Check whether providers are in-network
Under the No Surprises Act, consumer protection should limit the out-of-network charges as surprise billing for emergency care, and routine care with out-of-network providers, besides limiting charges for out-of-network doctors, and gives patients ability to dispute charges. Make sure all care providers are in-network for your insurance. If not disclosed in advance, charges may be appealed. If uninsured or not using insurance and with estimates in advance, bills exceeding estimates by $400, can be disputed. Patients seeking more information contact Help Desk at 800-985-3059. Patients can file online complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Check for double billing and negotiate directly with the hospital.
Prioritize paying for food and shelter over medical bills
Lenders and financial institutions treat medical debts very differently from the unpaid consumer bills as people choose to take loans to purchase a car but never choose to get ill or injured. People incurring medical debt does not rate them as unreliable or not likely to repay bills in general. The 3 major credit-rating companies resolved that unpaid medical receipts will not affect credit scores for that year. Bills repaid should be deleted from credit reports immediately. From 2023, unpaid medical debt under $500 will not appear on reports. Focus on payments for life’s necessities: food, rent /mortgage, and gas to go to work.
If indebted or in collections, seek qualification for charity care and assistance
Hospitals fail to screen patients eligible for financial assistance programs. Non-profit hospitals must offer charity care and other community benefits but self-advocacy can make a difference. Hospitals do retroactively qualify patients and write off debts. Volunteers help patients push for that. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors must give written notice, within five days after contacting any patient, detailing amounts owed, the creditor’s name, and the bill dispute process. Patients may dispute inaccurate bills within 30 days. If patients do qualify, the collector cannot charge more than what the patient would pay. Lawyers often represent consumers free of charge to resolve legal cases, including medical debt cases while dealing with hospitals, third-party collection companies and violations of state consumer protection laws. Though understandable, ignoring payment of bill and related issues makes debt cases more complicated. Try to advocate for the entire family and secure help.
Never sign up for credit cards offering to pay your medical bills
Experts warn using credit cards offered by providers to pay medical charges. Using personal loans, credit cards, or second mortgages, all debt is consumer debt as if spent on clothes or luxury SUVs. Thus medical debt is under-reported; a lot of it is lumped with other debt. If you convert a medical bill to a credit card or personal loan, your credit score and ability to borrow in future, is affected.
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