Managing Medical Debt
Debt from medical bills is a huge financial struggle for many people in Georgia. Medical emergencies, hospital stays, and surgeries can easily cause people to rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt, use up retirement savings, and even lose their homes or have to file for bankruptcy when they are unprepared to do so. Georgia has been ranked #7 out of all 50 states in credit card debt. While Georgia residents carry a high balance on their credit cards, it is still staggering to know that medical bills continue to outpace credit card debt and medical bills are the number one source of debt.
Medical issues and emergencies are most often unpredictable, and the time and amount of money necessary to recover can vary tremendously. It is almost impossible to budget for medical bills that arise that are more than your standard checkup, cold, or flu. The entire medical industry is a complicated web of insurance deductibles, rates, and codes that are all but impossible to figure out. The rising cost of health care has been contributed to the medical debt – and this is especially true for those who have private health insurance or who have lost their jobs and their health insurance.
It is essential that you review your medical bills carefully. The Federal General Accounting Office estimates that 99% of all hospital bills contain overcharges. You have the right to request and review itemized invoices. When you receive it you need to check for duplicate charges, look for unreasonably high charges ($22 for two Tylenol, $40 for a disposable pillow, etc.), call the billing office and ask for an explanation of codes that you do not understand. Do not hesitate to challenge overcharges or anything else that seems unfair.
You can negotiate your medical bill. Most medical providers are willing to negotiate your bill if you’re having trouble paying it in full. Make sure to contact your provider before the bill is delinquent so that they are more willing to work with you! You can also ask if you can pay your bill over time so that you have a payment plan with which you can budget monthly. Make sure you get all payment terms in writing to protect you in the long run.
Understanding how to manage your medical debt can protect your financial future.