Medical Debt

What Are the Options When You Can’t Pay Medical Debt?

Medical debt presents a major problem for so many in South Florida. The cost of receiving medical care, even with health insurance, can push a financially stable person into debt. Escaping that debt can be a struggle. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has pushed countless consumers further into debt, and with a second wave of the virus likely, the problems could be far from over.

Medical debt is the leading cause of approximately two-thirds (2/3) of all consumer bankruptcies filed. According to a recent poll from U.S. News of approximately 1,500 Americans, just under 40 percent of them reported having serious trouble with managing their medical bills with at least one of these bills being sent to collections. Within this group, seven percent have been sued for collection of their medical debt. Six percent of them said they filed bankruptcy due to medical debt. 

One of the leading causes for medical debt is inadequate insurance coverage. Even if a consumer has insurance, high deductible medical plans can require him or her to pay thousands to tens of thousands dollars before insurance coverage begins. In fact, of those surveyed, 61 percent had health insurance but were considered underinsured with a high-deductible plan.  

The fear of adding to their medical debt keeps many consumers from obtaining proper medical care and treatment. Of those surveyed, 44 percent reported that they held off on scheduling a follow-up appointment or seeing a doctor due to the costs associated with that visit. Others reported resorting to home remedies first, skipping prescription refills or delaying them, or even declining treatment plans. 

Over half of those surveyed said that they were forced to cut expenses in their monthly budgets to pay their medical bills. Over half reported using a credit card to pay their medical bills. While this option can be helpful in the short term in keeping a bill out of collections, it only pushes off the amount owed from one form of debt to another one with an even higher interest rate.  Financial experts recommend that consumers take other steps to pay down this debt before resorting to paying the amount owed off with a credit card.  

Before making a payment, the consumer should first carefully examine the statement of services. Make sure that all services are accurate and were, in fact, received. If the individual has health insurance, he or she should also check to see that a claim was first filed with the insurance provider and that the amount was appropriately reduced. Look at all dates of treatment and make sure that those are accurate, as well. Finding an error on the medical bill may not always be common, but 28 percent of those surveyed said that they did find and corrected mistakes on their statements.    

Many consumers find success in negotiating payment plans or discounts on their medical bills. Medical providers would rather receive some form of payment, even if under a monthly plan, over pursuing a collections case to receive payment. Twenty percent of the consumers surveyed said they were not successful in negotiating a payment plan, while 35 percent said they were successful in working out a payment plan. Eleven percent said they were successful in receiving a discount on their medical bill.  

A number of medical providers offer financial assistance for consumers who are not able to pay their bill. While certain qualifications may need to be met, the consumer should inquire as to whether the provider offers any type of financial assistance.

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Those who have experienced illness or injury and found themselves overwhelmed with medical debt should contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney. In bankruptcy, medical bills are considered general unsecured debts just like credit cards. This means that medical bills do not receive priority treatment and can easily be discharged in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were created to help people resolve overwhelming debt and gain a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy attorney Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken, P.A. website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

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