With healthcare costs skyrocketing and unemployment rates at a twenty-year high, it is no surprise that unpaid medical bills are becoming a burden for many Americans. While healthcare is costly, it is also essential, and many Americans have no choice but to incur this type of debt. Fortunately, there are some strategies for minimizing and resolving your unpaid medical bills. (See also How to initiate a medical bill dispute).
Like any unsecured creditor, a medical provider may turn your account over to a collection agency, or sue you in court for unpaid medical bills. Once a creditor obtains a court judgment against you, the creditor can request that the court garnish your wages, and place liens on your property in order to collect on the judgment.
While insurance coverage is typically helpful in minimizing out-of-pocket medical expenses, it is not always a guaranteed resolution to your situation. Insurance companies may deny or limit claims for medical services. As a result, you must be familiar with your insurance policy and its coverage, and utilize its appeal processes for unpaid or denied claims. You should also enlist your doctor or other medical provider in supporting your claim for coverage; a medical insurance company is much more likely to consider coverage for your claim if your doctor recommends it.
The rules and regulations that apply to unpaid medical bills differ somewhat from state to state. Generally, if you are relatively low-income, you may qualify for Medicaid. In most states, if you qualify for Medicaid benefits, you may be entitled to retroactive benefits, which could cover your unpaid medical bills. Also keep in mind that federal law strictly limits the amount of your income that may be garnished by creditors. These garnishment rules apply to also apply to Social Security benefits and Veteran's Administration benefits.
Try and negotiate a reduced bill with your medical provider. As medical providers routinely charge uninsured patients higher amounts than insured patients, you may be able to get the amount of your unpaid medical bills lowered. Next, apply for any medical bill assistance programs that may be available to you. For instance, many hospitals have payment programs for low-income patients not covered by insurance, which may result in reduced debts and/or an installment payment plan. You should also ensure that your medical bills are accurate, in that you actually received all of the services that you are being charged for on your bill.
If you are unable to negotiate a payment plan or reduced bill with your medical provider, or if you are having difficulty getting your insurance company to cover your claims for benefits, you should contact an attorney for assistance. An experienced attorney can negotiate a settlement for medical debt, guide you in the right direction for resolving your unpaid medical bills, and present all available options to you, including payment plans, settlements, and even bankruptcy proceedings.