Medical bills are the most common cause of people filing for bankruptcy in Ohio. Even if you’ve always been financially stable, if you’re hit with a major medical problem, bills mount up quickly to the point where you can no longer meet them.
According to findings from NerdWallet Health, in 2013, bankruptcies resulting from unpaid medical bills affected nearly 2 million people, even many who had health insurance. People often take on additional credit-card debt to cover mounting medical bills, and since credit cards often charge high interest rates for unpaid balances, debt only mounts. As a result of medical bills, people deplete their savings and wind up unable to pay for necessities such as rent, food and utilities.
Medical Debt Impacts Your Credit Score
Even if you’re not pushed into filing for bankruptcy, medical bills can hurt your credit. As a rule, unpaid bills are sent to a debt collector, and if the agency can’t collect, it reports the debts to the credit bureau. This can significantly damage your consumer credit scores, as one medical bill can cause a drop of 50 to more than 100 points.
What You Can Do:
- Be proactive about your medical bills, and don’t assume everything will be taken care of by health insurance. Review your EOBs (Explanation of Benefits) carefully. Contact the provider and/or your insurance company immediately with any questions.
- Try to negotiate a settlement with the service provider. Talk about what you can afford to pay, and see if the provider is willing to accept less as payment. If you make no headway by negotiating on your own, you may wish to hire a debt relief provider to come up with a debt consolidation plan you can afford. Consider a consumer advocate such as Health CPA, or Medical Cost Advocate or Insurance Negotiating Service.
- If a bill does get sent to a collection agency, ask them not to report it if you pay it right away. Be aware that having a collection account updated as “paid” generally won’t help your scores, unless a lender is using one of the newer credit score versions. So aim for removal of the item if possible.
- If you feel the situation is highly unfair, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Also, you can try to get the original provider to pull the debt back from collections so you can pay them directly. If they do, the account will usually not be reported.
- You have the right under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to ask the collection agency to validate the debt, and you have the right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to dispute it with the credit reporting agencies.
- Try to get patient financial assistance.Hospitals have patient assistance programs and discount programs. They are based on federal poverty guidelines. They are designed to be applied for before you receive the treatment, but you can still apply for them after you receive your first medical bill.
- File for bankruptcy protection. Bankruptcy is a last resort for resolving medical debt, but one that many people are forced to choose.
Contact Us For Help
If you are having problems with medical or any other kind of debt, the experienced and compassionate Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer, offer a free consultation to review your entire financial situation. We examine your income, your debts and your goals, and make sure you are aware of all your options. We understand what you are going through and will walk you through the process.