Medical bills can be challenging to take care of, especially when you don’t have health insurance. Illness and accidents can happen unexpectedly, so you won’t have time to prepare. An estimated 23.5% of middle-class Americans have unpaid medical bills, and for many, it’s challenging to pay them while taking care of living expenses.

If you’re dealing with a large medical bill, it’s important to review the accuracy of the charges. Negotiate a payment plan with minimum monthly payments so you can repay the bill over time or seek help from a non-profit organization. Here are the top tips to help you pay off large medical bills.

1. Calculate the Minimum Monthly Payment for Medical Bills

There’s no set minimum monthly payment for medical debt. The amount you need to pay will depend on the agreement you set up with your healthcare provider. It’s important to review your medical bill first to ensure you’re only billed for charges your insurance doesn’t cover.

You should also review the explanation of benefits (EOB) forms to see what charges your insurance company covers. If you notice any unauthorized charges or billing errors, request a revision of the bill. The No Surprises Act protects patients against surprise charges due to out-of-network care. Learn more about the act to protect yourself against surprise medical bills and charges.

Determine the Amount Owed and the Interest Rate

Ask your healthcare provider for an itemized bill. Check the bill to find the total amount you owe and any processing charges or interest fees. Many hospitals and healthcare providers will be willing to remove interest charges if you negotiate, so knowing what they’re currently charging you is important.

“Review your medical bills to make sure the charges are correct. Many times they are not,” cautions Teresa Dodson, a debt expert and the founder of Greenbacks Consulting. “Then look at your monthly budget to determine what you can afford to pay and make arrangements with the medical office,” Dodson explains. 

Review the Payment Terms

Your bill should also specify the payment terms and if there will be any additional penalties and fees if you fail to pay the bill. Some healthcare providers and hospitals give you the option of a payment plan. These plans will split your amount due into equal monthly payments to be repaid over a period, making it more manageable.

Example Calculation of Minimum Monthly Payment

Let’s say you receive a medical bill of $10,000, and you can’t afford to pay it in full at once. You negotiate with your service provider and agree to a payment plan. Your healthcare provider agrees to not charge any interest or penalties on the amount due, so you can pay $1,000 for ten months to clear your bill.

This means that your minimum monthly payment is $1,000 to clear the debt you owe successfully. Your minimum monthly payment can be based on a number of factors, such as the total debt you owe, insurance coverage, payment plan, and financial situation.  

2. Negotiate Your Minimum Monthly Payment

If you’re unable to repay your medical debt due to financial hardship, reach out to the billing department at the hospital to discuss your financial situation. They may have options for lowering your minimum monthly payment or negotiating a settlement with you.

Explain Your Financial Hardship

Explain your financial situation and why you’re unable to pay the bill. Whether it’s due to a job loss, illness, or simply because the bill is too large, being honest with the medical provider can help you find a solution. Many hospitals have hardship plans and programs specifically geared toward those facing financial problems.  

Consider Negotiating a Settlement

Learn more about what other providers in your area charge for the same medical services by comparing prices online or asking your insurer. If your medical service provider is charging you more, you can negotiate a price reduction. You can also negotiate a settlement to reduce the amount you owe if you agree to pay a lump sum to settle your bill.

Consider Debt Consolidation or Refinancing Options

If you have multiple medical bills, consider debt consolidation to streamline your payments into a single, more manageable monthly installment. However, lenders may charge a higher interest rate if your credit score is lower. This may stretch your budget too thin and make it difficult to keep up with payments.

If you’re a homeowner, another option to consider is cash-out refinancing if you don’t want to take out a personal loan. You can borrow money against the equity in your home and use it to repay your medical debts. However, you’ll have a higher mortgage payment to deal with.

Explore Alternative Payment Arrangements

If you can pay upfront, many healthcare providers may provide you with a discount on the total amount due. You can also set up a payment plan with the provider to break a large bill into smaller, more affordable payments if you can’t afford to pay the full amount at once.

If you have a limited income, you may also qualify for an income-driven hardship plan or an interest-free plan to suit your financial needs. Talk to your provider to see if they provide such plans, and make sure to get a written confirmation of the payment terms you agree to.

3. Consider Financial Assistance

Contact your medical provider or hospital’s billing office to ask if they offer any financial assistance programs. Many nonprofit hospitals provide such repayment plans to low-income patients, or they can refer you to organizations that provide grants and copay assistance to those who meet the eligibility criteria.

You can also apply for Medicaid to help with future medical costs. Federal and state governments fund Medicaid and offers services to low-income individuals.

Here are a few such organizations and programs to explore:

  • The Assistance Fund
  • Patient Access Network Foundation
  • HealthWell Foundation
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

4. Pay More Than the Minimum

You may have other financial obligations and not enough income to pay for them, along with your hospital bills. However, unpaid medical debt may affect your credit score. If your healthcare provider charges you interest on the amount you owe, paying it off at the earliest to avoid accruing interest is important.

Pay more than the minimum whenever possible to reduce the balance. Prioritize medical bills with high interest rates and finance charges. A credit counselor can also help you sort out which medical bills you should pay first. If you ignore your medical bill and don’t pay at all, healthcare providers may send it to debt collectors.

Seek Professional Financial Advice

Medical expenses can add up very quickly, but there are several options for dealing with it. You can negotiate a settlement, set up a payment plan, get a medical credit card, or seek help from charity care. You can also get in touch with a medical bill advocate to reach a fair agreement that works for you.

If you’ve exhausted your options, you can also seek guidance from a credit counselor or a financial advisor to develop a personalized debt relief plan for managing medical bill payments.