Drowning in Medical Bills? Know Your Options

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You might have your finances in order and even have a cushion in your savings account. However, this can all quickly fall apart if you experience an unexpected medical emergency or diagnosis and are drowning in medical bills.

Medical treatment is extremely expensive, and even if you have medical insurance, it can still leave you with hefty co-pays and outstanding balances that need to be paid.

So, what can you do? Fortunately, you have options.

Set Up a Payment Plan

When your insurance pays its portion, you will likely receive a bill from the hospital or clinic with the remaining balance that needs to be paid. If you can’t afford to pay the entire lump sum on the statement, you can call the creditor and try to set up a payment plan. In most cases, they will likely let you pay off the bill by making monthly payments. The length of your payment plan and the amount you will owe each month will vary by the creditor. While this is helpful, it can still leave you in a financial bind. If they insist on a minimum payment each month that is still above what you can afford to pay, you might have to pull money from other areas to make the payments, or you can risk falling behind on your payments.

Negotiate the Bill

You can also try to negotiate the medical bill with your healthcare provider. You can call their billing office and see if you can work out a no-interest payment plan, pay a percentage of the bill (especially if you don’t have insurance), or pay some upfront and work out the terms for the rest of the payment.

If you don’t have insurance, the provider might fear you will not pay any of the bills, so offering a percentage or a reduced payment can be appealing.

Ensure the Bill is Accurate

Before you pay your medical bills, review the itemized bill and make sure everything listed is accurate. Check each medication given, and every treatment administered, and make sure you truly received everything that is listed.

Talk to a Debt Counselor

If you’re drowning in your medical bills, you can reach out to a debt counselor to try to negotiate your bills with the creditor or health care provider on your behalf. This person will examine your bill, check it for accuracy, talk to your provider’s billing department, and help you create a payment plan that can work for you.

Apply for Financial Assistance

If you fall into a lower income bracket and have high medical bills, you may qualify for financial assistance through the healthcare provider. The hospital or clinic might have financial resources available to help offset your expenses.

File for Bankruptcy

Another option to get relief from your medical bills is to file for bankruptcy. These are considered unsecured debts and can be discharged through bankruptcy. If you file Chapter 7, your debt will be discharged through the proceedings. If you file Chapter 13, then it will be part of your repayment plan. Any remaining debt after you complete your payment plan will be discharged.

To learn if filing for bankruptcy is the right option for you, consult with a bankruptcy attorney. They will help you review your medical bills and other finances to determine the best option for you.

Note to Married Folk with Medical Bills

The Oregon Legislature codified in ORS 108.040 that, if you are married, the medical bills of each individual spouse are debts of both spouses. Thus, if you have catastrophic medical bills attributable to treatment of only one spouse, it is possible that the other spouse may be held liable for these medical debts. Make sure you talk to your attorney about this issue should you consider filing bankruptcy.

Let Us Help You With Your Medical Bills

If you are drowning in medical debt, let our lawyers at The Law Offices of Alexzander C.J. Adams, P.C. review your options with you and help you decide if bankruptcy is the right option for you. We work for you, the people, and not institutions. Contact us for a free case evaluation, or no-obligation consultation. We are dedicated to helping you overcome this small bump in the road and assisting you to get on with your life.

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