Over 464,000 San Diegans are carrying medical debts, to the tune of over $670 million. For cancer patients, life-saving treatments, including chemotherapy, can cost them up to $20,000 per round, or even something as simple as an emergency visit to your family dentist can cost hundreds of dollars. With household debt levels creeping up across America, it is safe to assume that many residents are looking for solutions when it comes to their finances. Yet, if medical bills go unpaid, interest charges and debt collection processes are activated, which only further compound the costs.
As Americans, and particularly residents of San Diego, continue to grapple with the aftermath of using debt for medical emergencies or family care, one question continues to rise to the forefront of everyone’s minds: how do we repay these large amounts?
Don’t Dodge the Bills and Notices
It can be easy to avoid looking at the bills and payment notices as they come in, but that could be one of the worst things you could do in terms of your credit standing and your chances of repayment.
Avoiding the bills or delaying taking action means your bills go further into arrears and stand a chance of going into collection. Once this happens, not only does it negatively impact your credit score and record, but it also drives your bills up thanks to default penalties and collection fees. Additionally, some institutions may offer payment plans or financial assistance suggestions for those who are finding it difficult to meet their payments – this is often included with your bills or payment notices.
Seek Help From Non-Profit Organizations
There are many families that are not only struggling to make their payments, but cannot repay their medical debt at all. In this case, you can seek assistance from organizations across the country that are dedicated to people in these situations. In 2018, NBC 7 Responds and Telemundo 20 partnered with RIP Medical Debt to help pay off $1 million in medical debt in San Diego and more across the country. Other options include county assistance programs such as the Self Sufficiency Services offered by the Community Action Program. Not only can they help with medical bills but also help low-income families with other living expenses so that they can meet their repayments.
Alternatively, you can opt to file for bankruptcy with the help of a lawyer. This eliminates all of your medical bills and allows you the chance to rebuild your credit. In addition, similar to student loans, medical bills can aid your qualification when claiming bankruptcy, since health bills are classed as business debts unless voluntarily incurred, such as cosmetic surgery.
Explore a Prompt Payment Discount
Like all businesses, medical offices will be looking to get their outstanding payments cleared sooner rather than later. Some of them will also be inclined to offer discounts for payment within a specified time frame, such as within the first 30 days. If it is not included in the original terms of the debt agreement, don’t hesitate to ask.
You can also make use of comparison pricing to get your payments down further. Simple research on the prices charged by rival medical centers can help you negotiate a larger discount or overall reduction, simply based on fairness. Keep in mind this option is only useful to those that have enough of the lump sum amount to repay the entire outstanding debt.
Get Rid of the Interest
Did you know that medical debt is one of the top reasons listed for bankruptcy? Similar to the issue with credit cards, medical bills also come with an attached interest rate. This means many people are getting caught up in the circle of repaying interest-laden debt; and making very little progress. This is because a significant portion of their monthly repayments are being taken up by the finance charges and therefore less of it goes towards repaying the actual principal. Speak to your lender about an interest-free payment plan. Most of them are happy to offer one on certain conditions and also dictate this in the initial terms and conditions. The removal of interest means you make more progress with each payment made.
Medical debt is often not a bill that is planned for nor voluntarily entered into. Life can sometimes throw us a curveball and in a situation where health is paramount, incurring a bit of debt may seem like a price to pay. That is until the aftermath begins and repayment notices trickle in. What is important to note is that there are ways to repay medical debt, and more importantly, there is help out there.