Medical debt is something that many people in America deal with. It has gotten worse as time has gone on, since insurance benefits are always changing, and people may not fully understand what is or is not covered. If you get hurt when you're out of network, this can also lead to massive bills that are difficult to even imagine paying back.
The good thing to remember is that there are ways to manage medical debt, and not all of them have to be through bankruptcy. These options, like negotiating rates and having a payment plan, can help you manage the debt more effectively without having to worry about your financial health.
Medical debt affects younger adults disproportionately
Did you know that 2016 data showed that medical debt peaks at around age 27 and stays there until the mid-40s, making up around 11.3 percent of debts for people in those age ranges. The median amount for people with totals in collections was around $684, but for some, the amounts are much, much higher.
Why does medical debt affect younger people more?
It's not because of higher spending. Instead, it is a because of lower incomes proportional to the debt. Many millennials also lacked insurance, particularly before the government required, for a time, that all people had insurance. There are estimates that between 20 and 30 percent of those in their late 20s and 30s were uninsured.
Another reason that medical debts can get out of hand is because of high deductibles. Even if you do have insurance, a deductible of $10,000, $12,000 or even more could mean you're thousands of dollars in debt before the insurance company begins to pick up the tab.
Do you have to pay the entire medical bill?
Taking some action on the bills you accrue is necessary, but that doesn't mean you necessarily have to pay the whole thing to get out of debt. You should:
- Check the medical bill for errors.
- Look up comparable surgeries, ER visits and costs, then negotiate down the cost of your visit.
- Offer a settlement amount to the hospital or doctor's office. Some will take less in lieu of having to send you to collections.
- Ask for a payment plan, if you can. Even if it's only $50 a month, a medical provider is likely to prefer a payment plan to having to send you to collections for unpaid bills.
- Hire a professional negotiator. You may want to work with your attorney to negotiate the bill and find a resolution to your problem.
As you can see, you are not alone with medical debt. Remember that you can negotiate, and you have a right to look into all legal options to get out of this debt.