Medical Debt Relief: How to Pay It Off
9 MIN READ
Published April 05, 2023 | Updated October 12, 2023
Large medical bills can be an overwhelming burden for you. There are only a handful of expensive health insurance policies that cover all the costs. Others are left wondering how to find the money to pay for medical costs. Fortunately, there are many medical debt relief programs available.
Medical debt affects millions of Americans, especially those who are uninsured:
- 20% of the households in the country report that they have some form of medical debt.
- In 2022, $88 billion in medical bills were in debt collection.
- 58% of all bills on credit reports and in collections were medical bills in 2021.
Paying off medical debt is different than paying off your credit cards or personal loans. It requires a different approach. This guide will provide you with a deeper understanding of the options available to help you manage and pay off your debt.
What is Medical Debt Relief?
24% of all adults in the country currently have dental or medical expenses they are unable to pay or are past due. If you are one of the millions of adults who have considerable debts because of medical care, medical debt relief may be the right option for you.
There are a number of ways to resolve the debt you owe to debt collectors. These programs can help you alleviate debt through a payment plan, settlement, consolidation, and in some cases, even forgiveness.
TurboDebt can look at your complete financial picture to help you determine the right option and course of action for you.
When to Look for Medical Debt Relief
If you have trouble with unpaid medical bills, it may be time to look into options for medical bill debt relief. These programs are right for you if:
- You owe large medical bills.
- You are unable to pay off your medical debt.
- Your medical debt is in collections.
- You are receiving multiple debt collection calls.
How Your Credit Score is Affected by Medical Debt Relief
Unpaid medical debts only appear on your credit scores after being in collections for a year. Debt under $500 will also not appear on credit records. This, however, may not help people with large, unpaid debt.
It is important to take care of your bills as soon as you receive them to avoid a negative impact on your credit score. If you are unable to pay your debt on time, your bill may go to collections.
Medical debt relief does not usually affect your credit score, depending on which program you choose. For example, if you opt for a payment plan or are approved for medical debt forgiveness, it may not impact your credit.
Debt settlement may impact your credit, but if you have a very large debt, it may be better to settle it and pay it off instead of letting it become uncontrollable.
Beware of Medical Debt Relief Scams
When looking for a company that can help you erase medical debt, it is crucial to ensure that the company is reliable and legitimate.
- Promising guaranteed results.
- Claiming to have your entire debt forgiven.
- Demanding payments up-front without first offering services.
Medical Debt Relief Programs to Get You Out of Debt
Having large debts looming over your head can be distressing and stressful. But there are a number of ways to tackle this debt. Here are some of the most effective medical debt relief programs you can consider.
Medical Debt Settlement Programs
An experienced debt settlement company can help you settle your medical debt for less than what you owe.
The company working on your behalf can negotiate with the collection agency, hospital, or medical service provider to agree on a settlement amount. It is best to start this process at the earliest before it goes to collection to avoid racking up large penalties and fees.
Dealing and negotiating with collection agencies can be nerve-wracking when you do it on your own. A debt professional can be your advocate and come up with a negotiated amount that everyone can agree to.
Medical Debt Consolidation
If you have overwhelming burden of medical debts, one of the best options is to consolidate them all into a single loan. A personal loan or a 0% interest credit card can lower your interest rates and ease payments.
This is a particularly good option when you have a large amount of medical debt. Many credit card companies offer 0% interest rates for those who still have fair credit.
An important point to note here is that 0% interest comes with a catch. The interest will only remain 0% if you manage to pay off your debt in a set timeframe. If you fail to do that, interest will be added to all your previous payments. If you decide to go with a 0% credit card instead of a personal loan, be sure that you understand all the terms and conditions.
Medical Debt Counseling
If you need someone to help, you navigate your financial situation, consider working with a medical debt advocate and counselor.
An experienced counselor can go through your bills, review your budget, and create a personalized plan for you. They can also work with your medical service provider to come up with a debt management solution that allows you to pay off your debt quickly and in the most effective manner.
Many hospitals, dentists, and physicians can work with a low or no-interest payment plan. This is a simple and quick solution for those who cannot pay off the entire bill amount at once.
The terms you negotiate with the medical provider will determine the minimum amount you can pay. Typically, you will make equal payments over a few months until you are able to cover the entire bill.
You may also want to ask if there are any fees or billing charges associated with your payment plan to get a better understanding of affordability.
Medical Credit Cards
Some providers may also offer you medical credit cards. Many of these cards offer an interest-free period of up to 12 months, so it may be a good way to access necessary medical services at the right time.
Be aware that if you do not manage to pay off the entire amount within the interest-free period, you may have to pay deferred interest rates which can make it even more expensive and get you deeper into credit card debt.
If you pay late or miss payments, it may also impact your credit score. Know all the costs associated with your medical credit card if you opt to go this route.
Alternatives to Medical Debt Relief Programs
Other than the options listed above, there are also many alternatives you may want to consider.
Medical Bill Forgiveness
If you have a financial hardship and can prove it, you may be eligible for medical bill forgiveness. If you qualify, your provider may forgive your medical debt entirely.
You may have to provide proof and documents such as tax returns to check eligibility. It is challenging to prove that you have no means to pay off your medical bills, but in certain situations, it may be possible.
You can also send in applications to non-profit organizations such as Patient Advocate Foundation and CancerCare for financial assistance.
Income-Driven Hardship Plan
Many non-profit hospitals and for-profit health care providers offer income-driven hardship plans. If you have high medical bills and low income, you may be eligible for financial assistance.
Like payment plans, this type of plan can break up the amount you owe into smaller, more manageable monthly payments. In some cases, your entire debt may also be forgiven through charity care.
To be eligible for an income-driven hardship plan, you may have to first apply for Medicaid.
A last resort option for medical bill debt relief is bankruptcy. It's also important to remember that a collection for medical debt can lead to bankruptcy but also turn into a lawsuit. If you fail to handle the lawsuit properly, medical debt does have the potential to lead to jail time, albeit in very rare cases.
Medical bills can be eliminated by bankruptcy because they are unsecured debts.
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may be able to discharge your medical bills and other unsecured debts. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is another option.
It is important to remember that bankruptcy is a permanent and serious decision. It has a major impact on your credit score and is not always easy to qualify for. Bankruptcy should only be considered when you have exhausted all of your other options.
Resolving your medical debt will give you the peace of mind you deserve. While there are many companies offering medical debt relief programs, it is crucial to avoid scams that may negatively impact your credit score and leave you with more debt than what you already had.
At TurboDebt, we can help you resolve your medical debt through strategic planning, advising, and consulting services. Connect with us for a free consultation today. Our team will be happy to help you find the right option to resolve your financial challenges.