Americans spent on average $1,054 in out-of-pocket medical expenses, according to the most recent numbers provided by Peterson-Kaiser. The findings also revealed that 27 million Americans are paying their medical bills with credit cards.
What is interesting about the findings is the people who are falling into medical debt are not the uninsured, it is the people with health insurance. Medical debt affects those making less than $10,000 a year to those making in excess of $100,000 a year. Accidents, illness, even pregnancy can generate unexpected medical expenses. Some patients are faced with tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt. For others, a few thousand dollars can prove to be unaffordable when money is already tight.
Here are some ways to deal with unexpected medical debt:
- Set up a payment plan. Avoid putting medical expenses on a credit card. More than half of adults over the age of 50 put medical bills on their credit cards, according to a AARP. Request an affordable payment plan from your medical provider, first. See if the hospital or medical provider will accept monthly payments, free of interest.
- Scrutinize the bill. Medical bills can be complicated and sometimes include errors. In fact, a recent study found that 49 percent of Medicare medical bills contain errors or unnecessary charges. When you receive a bill for a procedure, hospitalization or nursing care, take time to review it for accuracy. If you received only a total due, request an itemized list of services provided. Request a copy of benefits from your insurance company and confirm they have covered everything promised in your plan.
- Open a health savings account (HSA). These accounts are typically only allowed with high-deductible healthcare plans. Putting money into a HSA will give you a current tax benefit. The money will earn interest tax free either as an investment or as a simple savings account. You can then spend it on deductibles and additional medical expenses tax free.
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