It can happen very quickly. One day you are financially responsible and taking care of all your bills and then an unforeseen medical emergency changes everything. By the time you experience an ambulance ride, hospital stay, operation and recovery, you could be in substantial medical debt from what your health insurance did not cover.
A recent survey has found that one in five people in the U.S. with health insurance have encountered difficulties paying for medical bills at some point in the previous year. Nearly a third of those people had debt over $5,000 and 13 percent had debt over $10,000. Fifty-eight percent of those in the survey said they had difficulty keeping up with the medical bill payment and had received a call from a collection agency. Eleven percent said they filed for bankruptcy and that their medical debt was a major factor for doing so.
Being in debt for medical costs can be frustrating since it was most likely something you could control but is now affecting your daily life. If you want to try to protect yourself from dealing with medical debt that could become overwhelming, here are some things you should be doing.
Understand your health coverage – You should not be checking your health coverage at the time you need it to see if you are covered. You should also be aware of what care providers near you are in your coverage network. Out of network care givers can be very expensive. If you are going to a health care provider prior to a non-emergency visit, make a call to see if you have the coverage you need for the visit.
Get the cost up front – If you are about to go in for a treatment or procedure, you should know how much you will be paying. You don’t have major work done to your car without knowing the cost, the same should go for you. You can even compare prices at different health care providers and see how they match up for your needs and expected care.
Stick with a preferred pharmacy – When you use a preferred pharmacy with your insurance, you will most likely be paying substantially lower prices. If other medical costs have been expensive, curbing medication costs can help keep your debt down.
Review your medical bills – It has been estimated that Americans pay over $50 billion on medical bills every year that did not need to pay or really did not owe. You should not pay a medical bill until you have seen all the bills associated with the treatment you received. There is also no reason to make a payment until you have confirmed what your insurance can pay.
You can negotiate your bill – If you see items on your medical bill you feel can be negotiated, contact the hospital or doctor to discuss lowering the cost.
Once last thing you can do to help with unforeseen medical bills is to build up an emergency fund. This money may have been earmarked in your mind for something fun like a vacation or a new car, but it can come in handy if you have financial struggles due to medical bills.