Dealing with Medical Debt — April 2010, reviewed January 2013

Medical debt is a major headache for many.  A recent FDIC Consumer News article provided some suggestions for dealing with this pain. (http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/cnwin0910/medical_debt_tips.html)

Number one on their list was getting an itemized statement.  Review it to make sure the services and costs listed are correct.  From personal experience, I know this could be a daunting task!   Contact the provider if you find a mistake or you need clarification. If you believe a health insurer denied or reduced a payment incorrectly you can appeal an insurer’s decision.

A second suggestion is to contact the doctor’s office or hospital immediately if you don’t think you can pay a medical debt.  Explain your situation and attempt to negotiate a bill or offer a reasonable payment plan before it is referred to a collection agency.  Large medical facilities or medical providers may have business office staff or social workers that can help you find what helpful options may be available.

Think twice about putting large medical expenses not covered by insurance on a credit card or a loan with a high interest rate.  The same advice is given when considering using a home equity loan or withdrawing retirement savings.  This puts your financial future at risk. 

Don’t be afraid of asking for additional help in dealing with large bills and explore all options.