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How to pay off your Medical Charges: 6 Options
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How to Pay Off Your Medical Charges: 6 Options
Do you need a way to pay your medical bills? Ask for a payment plan, use a medical credit card , or employ an advocate for medical bills.
By Sean Pyles Senior Writer | Personal finance, credit, and personal finance Sean Pyles leads podcasting at NerdWallet as the host and producer of NerdWallet’s “Smart Money” podcast. The show “Smart Money” Sean talks with Nerds on NerdWallet’s NerdWallet Content team to answer the listeners’ questions about personal finance. With a focus on thoughtful and actionable money advice, Sean provides real-world guidance that will help consumers improve in their finances. In addition to answering listeners’ financial questions on “Smart Money,” Sean also interviews guests outside of NerdWallet and produces special segments that explore subjects such as the racial wealth gap as well as how to get started investing and the background of college loans.
Before Sean was the host of podcasting for NerdWallet He also covered issues concerning consumer debt. His work has appeared in USA Today, The New York Times and other publications. When he’s not writing about personal finances, Sean can be found playing in his garden, taking runs , and walking his dog for long walks. He lives within Ocean Shores, Washington.
Jan 13th, 2023
Written by Kathy Hinson Lead Assigning Editor Personal financial, credit scoring, debt and money management Kathy Hinson leads the core personal finance team at NerdWallet. Previously, she spent 18 years at The Oregonian in Portland in positions such as copy desk chief and team editor and designer. Prior experience includes copy editing and news for a variety of Southern California newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications in Iowa’s University of Iowa.
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Major changes have occurred in the manner that medical debts are reported by the three major U.S. credit agencies. From July 1, 2022: Consumers are likely to see their medical debt removed from their credit report, and the delay before medical debts that are unpaid appear on credit reports has increased from six months to one year. In mid-2023, medical debt that is less than $500 is likely to not appear on credit reports. VantageScore anticipates excluding all paid and unpaid medical debt regardless of how much is owed or the length of time the debt has been in collections — from 3.0 and 4.0 score calculations at the end of January 2023.
The process of paying off medical debt isn’t as clear-cut as resolving the issue with an loan or credit card. There’s usually more flexibility to negotiate conditions of repayment and perhaps even reduce the amount you’re owed. You may also have an additional rights granted by the .
To start, look over your medical bills and compare it with your explanation of benefits, in the event that you have insurance. Determine what you’re required to pay, but don’t overpay the mistake of assuming that you can’t. attempt to negotiate the total cost first.
When you work with your provider, be upfront about what you’re able to afford. When you’re not insured, you’ll likely be priced higher than someone who has. Knowing there’s a price disparity can give you leverage.
“That can be useful for negotiation when you actually have to pay the bill,” says Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “Tell them you’ll pay the amount that BlueCross or Medicaid would pay.”
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A variety of medical professionals, such as dentists, physicians and hospitals, can negotiate the lowest or no-interest payment plan to pay your bills. This is among the most straightforward and popular ways to pay off an unpaid bill with one payment.
The amount you are allowed to pay on your payment plan is contingent on the amount of your bill as well as the terms you agree to. The bill is usually split into equal installments over a few months until the entire amount is paid.
Tip: Ask whether there are charges for billing or other charges that are that are associated with the payment plan, so you can determine the cost.
Medical credit cards for medical purposes.
Providers may also offer to assist you in applying for . While medical credit cards generally have an interest-free period of six to 12-months, it is possible that you can be hit with a that could increase your debt to the point of becoming expensive if you do not pay the entire amount within the timeframe. Another danger that comes with credit cards is that missing payment or late payments could have a negative impact on your score on credit.
Tips: Be aware of the additional expenses you’ll face if faced with deferred interest and be aware of whether medical credit cards make sense to you.
Options for credit that aren’t secured
It can be a great way to to consolidate medical bills or cover emergency or planned procedures.
Getting a personal loan could be the best option after exhausting other options, like a payment plan or medical credit card, however it also comes with risks of fees, interest and negative credit score impact when you fail to pay. Loan amounts range from $1,000 to $100,000.
Tips: Make sure you search around to compare rates, fees, and repayment conditions.
A credit card that has 0% interest
It could be a viable option for you if you’re not eligible for a healthcare credit or a payment program. You’ll need excellent to good credit score to be eligible, however. Make sure you pay your balance prior to the promotional interest period ends and an interest rate kicks in. In addition, late payments could affect your credit score.
Tip: Dedicate the card to only medical expenses if you choose to choose to do this. It’s not easy to keep track of expenses to be used for tax deductions or medical savings accounts.
Medical bill advocate
If you’ve endured an extended stay in the hospital or a lengthy procedure, you’re probably facing a mountain of medical bills.
You can hire a medical bill advocate to negotiate your bill on your behalf. Advocates are experts in medical billing who know how to read health care bills and know the typical costs for the procedures. They can spot possible errors or overcharging and help you reduce the amount you owe.
Groups such as Medical Billing Advocates of America will connect you to an advocate. Be careful when selecting a billing advocate because there are also predators out in the world who claim to be advocates but take your money or even your identity. Be aware of who you’re speaking to and the way they work before you divulge any information.
TIP: Ensure that the cost incurred by an advocate for medical bills would be outweighed by the savings before you sign up for a health insurance plan.
Income-driven hardship plan
If you earn a small amount and high medical bills If you have a high medical bill, you could be qualified to be a part of an income-driven hardship plan.
Similar to a regular payment plan one that is income-driven will break down the total amount you owe into manageable, regular payments or even eliminate the debt entirely. Speak to your provider to determine if it offers this type of plan. All non-profit hospitals offer some form of charity care.
Tip: You might need to submit an application before you are eligible.
Negotiating costs on your own
If you have or you believe you could do the duties of a medical bill advocate it is possible to reduce the amount on your medical expenses by yourself.
For medical bills in collections, remember that debt collectors typically purchase debts for pennies per dollar. This provides you with a good leverage to bargain.
If you think you can negotiate with your healthcare provider, you may be capable of taking the work of a medical bill advocate to your own. Go through your medical bills and note any charges that are deemed to be wrong or too high, then keep in touch with customer service representatives.
Tips: Don’t be afraid to talk to your service provider. You must be sure that you can afford the things you’re committing to. You may have a choice between a lump sum or a payment plan.
Summary of how to pay off medical debt options
What not to do
You might be tempted to try the quickest solution for your medical debt — or just ignore it completely. However, doing this could cost you more in interest and could put your at risk. A smart approach to pay off your medical bills can help you avoid delinquent , even with recent changes.
Inscribing medical debt onto an existing credit card is an example. It will be a nice gesture to the doctor’s office, however you’re likely to be charged an interest rate of double-digits in the event that you aren’t able to pay the full amount when your statement for the card arrives.
If you’re not sure you can afford the medical expenses and are confronted with debt that is overwhelming or you are having to make a choice between food, housing and payment on debt, think about looking into or even .
About the author: Sean Pyles is the executive producer and host of NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast. His work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and elsewhere.
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