When and Where to Get Help for Medical Debt
Each year, approximately 56 million Americans struggle with mounting medical debt. When the burden of medical debt becomes too much to handle, and it can be difficult to know where to turn for help.
The good news is that there are numerous resources available if you’re struggling with medical debt.
Debt Warning Signs
How can you tell your debt is spiraling out of control? A few warning signs include:
- Your income has been reduced. Oftentimes, people miss work or have to take a leave of absence to deal with their health problems. With less or no income to pay your bills, medical debt quickly begins to accumulate.
- You can’t make minimum payments. Payment plans and minimum payments are designed to make your overall bill more manageable. When you can’t pay the minimum or meet the terms of your arrangement, it’s difficult to get caught up.
- You pay for essentials with credit cards. When the majority of your budget is going towards medical debt and doctor bills, it can leave little left over for essentials like food, rent and utilities. Paying for these essentials with credit cards only adds to your debt load.
- Your credit cards are maxed out. If you have multiple lines of credit and they are each close to their limit, or if you’ve maxed out credit cards trying to pay your medical debt, your debt is out of control. It also puts you at risk for over limit fees.
- Your money problems are affecting your state of mind. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 74 percent of Americans experienced money-related stress in any given month. While most people deal with financial stresses at one point or another, stress that causes you to regularly lose sleep or negatively affects your health is a sign that the problem is out of control.
Where to Find Help
If you need help with your medical debt, there are a number of places you can turn.
Provider financial assistance
Many hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the country provide low or no-cost care or financial assistance to those who cannot afford their medical bills. Check with your medical provider’s billing office or financial counselor to find out what options are available.
Medicaid and Medicare are government-funded programs designed to cover medical costs for low-income households. Medicaid coverage and eligibility varies with each state, and you can check your eligibility at medicaid.gov.
If you’re over 65, are disabled, or have permanent kidney failure, you may be eligible for Medicare. You can also visit benefits.gov to search for government benefit programs that can help you with medical bills and debt.
GiveForward, GoFundMe, and other crowdfunding sites allow people to solicit assistances from friends, family members, and others to help cover an expense, including medical debt or procedures. Once you select a site, you create a page that explains your need, and then share your story via social media or email. The funds are then collected and sent directly to whoever is managing your page.
Medical debt is the number one cause of bankruptcies in the United States. While it has serious ramifications, for many people it provides a way out of crippling medical debt. A bankruptcy attorney can help you determine if this is the best option for you.
Medical debt may seem overwhelming, but knowing when it’s time to seek help and where to turn can help you manage your debt.
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