You’ve successfully battled a serious medical condition; you’ve had surgery or spent some time in the hospital. You’re hoping to move on with your life now that you have your health back. But there’s the little matter of the bill that looms large, overwhelming your ability to pay. Or even worse, maybe you’re still sick and unable to pay your medical bills.
According to a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, you are not alone. Americans owe billions to medical providers. The bureau estimates that between about 18% and 35% of Americans have medical debt, with Black and Hispanic people, young adults and low-income people of all races and ethnicities more likely to carry this burden.
If you’re struggling to pay medical debt, what can you do? Fortunately, you may have a lot of options, depending on your situation and especially if the debt is from a hospital. We’re going to spell them out for you.
Medical Debt Most Common in Collection
American credit reports show $88 billion in medical debt, as of last June, according to a recent federal government report.
Medical debt is the most common type of debt pursued by collection agencies, comprising 58% of all third-party debt collection in 2021, according to the report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That dwarfs the next most-common form of debt pursued by collection agencies, telecommunications debt, which is at 15%.
The report says two-thirds of medical debt results from one-time or short-term medical care arising from an acute need, when people don’t have time – or the option – to shop around for lower-priced options. If you’re uninsured or if the provider isn’t in your insurance network, you can be hit with higher prices. And even in-network, prices can be vastly different in different facilities or even different departments of the same facility.
“Medical debt can also lead people to avoid medical care, develop physical and mental health problems, and face adverse financial consequences like lawsuits, wage and bank account garnishment, home liens, and bankruptcy,” the CFPB report says. “Given the widespread impact of COVID-19, addressing medical debt is an urgent priority.”
What you should do about your medical debt depends on a number of factors, including whether a collection agency has already gotten involved.
What to Do About Medical Debt Before a Collection Agency Hounds You
If you have medical debt that has not gone to collection, Jennifer Bosco, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, suggests getting an itemized bill and going over it for mistakes. If the bill has incorrect information, you can appeal it. …….