How to Manage Medical Bills [Try These Helpful Ideas]
Our health is our number one asset. It helps us get up every morning and engage in activities that bring fulfillment to our lives. So, it’s no surprise that healthcare is a top priority for Americans. Unfortunately, the healthcare ecosystem is a challenging space with skyrocketing health services, insurance premiums, and prescription medication. Taking care of large medical bills can get overwhelming, so how do you manage them?
Dedicated to lending a hand during tough financial situations, Power Finance Texas has helpful tips on how to manage medical bills. Check out how you can build a strong financial standing today.
7 Tips for Paying Your Medical Bills
Though the healthcare journey may be tough, the good news is, you have options to consider when paying your medical bills. And, it’s important that you understand them in order to find the right path for your circumstances.
1) Negotiate a Payment Plan
Since doctors and hospitals lose money if your debt is sent to collections, many medical providers are willing to work out a payment plan with you directly. You can negotiate a plan where you make smaller and more affordable payments over time until the bill is covered.
Be sure to ask the medical staff/billing department if there are any fees included in the payment plan so that you are aware of the total amount and able to set yourself up for success.
2) Start a Health Savings Account (HSA)
A Health Savings Account, or HSA, is a bank account that accumulates pre-tax money specifically for your out-of-pocket medical expenses. You can think of it as a personal savings account where you can make tax-free deposits into your HSA. The money you contribute rolls over from year to year, so you can still keep and use these savings for future medical expenses.
Please note that you can only have one if you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Some employers offer an HSA in their health insurance. If you’re self-employed or your employer does not offer an HSA, you can still enroll in one as long as you have HDHP coverage and meet other eligibility requirements. You can find these requirements on the IRS website.
3) Look Into an Income-Driven Hardship Plan
If you have low income, you may be eligible for an income-driven hardship plan. Similar to a standard payment plan, this plan allows you to divide up your total bill amount into more manageable payments based on your income and family size.
4) Tap into Savings
Rather than throwing a huge medical bill on your credit card, try tapping into your savings and/or emergency fund if circumstances allow. You don’t want to accrue more debt if you absolutely don’t need to. Therefore, consider all options, such as your savings or emergency fund, before biting the bullet and swiping your credit card.
5) Seek Out Charitable Organizations
There are charitable organizations such as PAN Foundation and CancerCare that offer assistance programs to help you with your medical bills. Cameron’s Crusaders provides a list of organizations that may be of help.
6) Ask for a Discount
As the healthcare industry is increasingly becoming more competitive, customer service and retention have become crucial. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask your provider/doctor’s office for a discount. They might be willing to help you out to maintain their business.
7) Ask Family and Friends
Reach out to those you trust for assistance. You can also set up a GoFundMe account to ask your loved ones for donations. One-third of all donations on this site goes toward healthcare costs. Nearly 250,000 campaigns have been created for these costs that have raised $650 million in contributions.
What is the Minimum Monthly Payment on Medical Bills?
There isn’t one standard monthly payment amount. As mentioned earlier, it all depends on your hospital/doctor’s office and personal financial situations. Since payment plans are discussed, negotiated, and established between you and your provider, the minimum monthly payment varies.
What is Medical Bill Debt Forgiveness?
Medical bill debt forgiveness is partial or total forgiveness of your medical debt. If you face serious conditions, you may be able to seek medical bill forgiveness. This involves:
- Petitioning your provider to forgive your debt.
- Showing proof (tax returns and documentation) that you cannot pay your bills.
What Government Programs Help Pay Medical Bills?
When you think about how to manage your medical bills, it’s worth looking into government programs that you may be eligible for.
Medicaid and CHIP
Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) assists families in paying for their children’s medical costs if they can’t afford insurance or don’t receive it through their employer. You can learn more about eligibility and the registration process from USA.gov.
Social Security and Medicare
Social Security Administration (SSA) offices help people who are under Social Security and Medicare find the right resources during their healthcare journey. USA.gov outlines eligibility requirements and the application process for Medicare.
Medicaid for Adults
Medicaid is a federal and state program that helps people of low income with their medical costs. As each state carries different eligibility requirements and application guidelines, you should contact your state Medicaid program for more information.
What Are Some Ways to Save on Medical Costs?
Now that you understand the options that are available to help you pay for your medical bills, what are some tactics that can help you save on costs down the road?
Use In-Network Providers
Preferred provider options (PPOs) pay for the majority of your health costs when you visit doctors or hospitals that are part of your insurance’s preferred network of providers. So be sure to stick to their network, since seeking outside providers will likely incur a larger bill.
Pursue Preventative Care
Preventative care keeps people healthy through annual physicals and tests. It’s a way to detect health issues early on before they escalate into emergencies. Many insurance plans offer preventative care at no cost because it saves insurers money in the long run. So, if you find a plan that offers free or low-cost preventative care, take it!
Be Vigilant About Prescriptions
To save on prescription medication costs, keep the following key components in mind:
- Don’t fall into name-brand drugs and treatments. According to the FDA, “a generic medicine works in the same way and provides the same clinical benefit as its brand-name version.” Not to mention, generic drugs cost about 80% to 85% less than name-brand drugs! So, seek out generic drug prescriptions.
- Ask if there are over-the-counter (OTC) medications available that can treat you for less money.
- Ask your doctor if you can use a mail-order pharmacy, so you can receive a larger prescription package (like a three-month supply versus one month) for less money.
This may seem like an unlikely component, but it is crucial. Communicate with your providers by asking a lot of questions when looking at your medical options. Asking questions and talking to the right people can go a long way.
- Ask about costs – Ask your doctor to provide an estimated cost for a procedure prior to booking an appointment. And again, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount.
- Ask about options – If a procedure involves a high copay or out-of-pocket deductible, ask your doctor if there are any other options or if it’s really necessary. Share your situation with them, and see if they can provide you with alternatives.
Learning how to manage your medical bills involves vigilance and communication to discover the right option for you. Moreover, it requires familiarizing yourself with insurance benefits and working closely with your providers to help alleviate your financial burden. Your health should never be compromised, so be sure to take the right measures today!