Medical Blues

Tips for how to avoid/deal with medical debt

While everyone would like to think that their bodies are well-oiled machines, the truth is that our bodies break down, sometimes even when we’re young. When it is time for a tune-up, the medical bills that come with it often stick around for far too long. In fact, a recent study found that about a quarter of all adults have at least one past-due medical bill. Below are some tips for dealing with those pesky invoices.

• Prevent First. The best way to avoid medical debt? Stay as healthy as possible. Still, regular exercise and a solid diet can only get you so far. It’s a good idea to have some healthy emergency savings, too. Even a modest amount — like a few hundred dollars— can help you overcome an unexpected medical bill.

• Check It Out. When you receive a large medical bill, check to make sure it’s correct. If it’s not itemized, call your doctor/hospital to get it formatted that way so you can make sure you weren’t charged for something you didn’t need. If your insurance has denied the claim, call the company and make sure your healthcare provider issued the correct code.

• Negotiate. If the bill is correct, it’s time to start haggling. Yes, you can do this with your doctor or hospital. Ask if they’ll negotiate on the price. Ask if paying a chunk now will get you a discount. Check to see if they offer any financial assistance programs. If all else fails, ask for a monthly payment plan. As The New York Times reports, the bottom line is that your healthcare provider wants to get paid, so they’ll likely be open to working something out.

Chris O'Shea

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