Medical debt is often said to be the number one cause of bankruptcy in the US. According to RIP Medical Debt, nearly 1 in 5 Americans has delinquent medical debt on their credit report. Even with medical insurance, you can be left with medical debt that you struggle to pay. Sometimes, there’s not a lot you can do about having a debt to pay if you need an expensive treatment that your insurance doesn’t fully cover. However, there are ways you can avoid getting into debt and smart ways to handle any debt you do have. Try these tips to reduce your chances of dealing with medical debt.
Check If You’re Eligible for Government Programs
Government assistance programs for medical care, such as Medicare and Medicaid, are only available to certain groups of people. Although they don’t help to cover everyone, there’s a possibility that you or someone in your family is eligible for one of these programs. Medicaid helps low-income adults, people with disabilities, children, pregnant women and seniors. The Children’s Health Insurance Program provides medical and dental care cover for uninsured children and teens if household income is too high for Medicaid. There’s also Medicare, which is for people aged 65 or older, as well as some younger people with disabilities and people with End-Stage Renal Disease.
Top Up Your Benefits with Private Cover
If you use Medicare, you can get more from it by topping it up. Medicare supplements help you to extend your coverage by offering a choice of programs. They cover the things that the main Medicare Plans A and B don’t cover, so that you can make the most of Medicare. A range of private medical insurance companies offer these plans so that you can choose one that works for you. The companies offer standardized insurance coverage, so each plan is the same with every company. However, you should still find out about insurance information before you commit to a plan. You need to make sure you’re getting the right coverage and the best price. Choosing one of these plans helps to cover the gaps in your insurance so you can avoid debt in the future.
Get Familiar with Your Insurance Coverage
It’s vital that you’re intimately familiar with what your medical insurance covers. Many people aren’t sure what their insurance company will pay for, and are then surprised when they’re hit by high costs. Policies can vary widely, and you could still find that you’re vulnerable to huge medical bills even if you have insurance. You should understand what your policy does and doesn’t cover, and how you can protect yourself if your insurance won’t pay. Before you have any non-emergency treatment, it’s worth checking with your insurance company by getting in touch. You might find out that one part of the treatment process falls out of your provider’s network.
Look for the Best Treatment Prices
Medical expenses aren’t the same across the board. Costs of different treatments, procedures and medications can differ hugely, depending on where you go. If you have time to compare costs, don’t just opt for the first price you’re given. Explore different providers and examine the quality of care you will receive too. You can use Healthcare Bluebook to make cost comparisons easier. Doing this is useful if you’re going to be paying for something without insurance, but it will also help if you want to avoid going over any limits your insurance provider might have set.
Make Sure Your Bills Are Accurate
Errors in medical bills are much more common than you might think. Sometimes people end up with completely false debts, meant for someone else or sent to them in error. In other situations, things could be incorrectly added to your bill, so you end up paying too much for treatment or paying for something you didn’t receive. That’s why it’s essential to check any bills before you agree to pay for them. One top of billing errors, you could discover that your insurance hasn’t paid for something it should have. When you have any treatment, it’s best to wait until you receive all bills before paying any of them and check them over carefully.
Look at Preferred Pharmacy Networks
A preferred pharmacy is part of a network of pharmacies that work together to offer competitive prices. When you’re choosing your health insurance plan, check to see if it includes a preferred pharmacy network. You could save a lot of money if your health plan includes one of these. You could have lower copays for both generic and branded drugs when you use a preferred pharmacy. Prescriptions might be a one-off treatment for some people, but many have regular prescriptions that can end up costing a lot. Getting the best prices matters even more in these circumstances.
Create an Emergency Fund
Your insurance might cover some of your medical costs, but it rarely covers everything. It’s always useful to have some money set aside that can help to pay for anything that your insurance plan might not cover. An emergency fund isn’t just useful for paying medical costs, but could also help to pay for any unexpected expenses that crop up in your life. It will be easier to pay for any out-of-pocket medical expenses if you have some savings that you only use for essentials. After paying your expenses from your emergency fund, you can work on topping it back up again at your own pace, instead of paying off medical costs.
Avoid Transferring Debt
If you do have any medical debt, it can be tempting to pay it using a credit card or perhaps a home equity loan, effectively transferring your debt. However, although this might seem like a good idea, it’s unlikely to be a wise choice. You could end up having to pay a lot more thanks to high interest rates, and you could put your home or other assets at risk if you’re unable to pay. You can often work out a payment plan for medical debt with the health provider instead, which makes it more manageable.
If you want to avoid dealing with medical debt, you can take steps to ensure your medical costs are taken care of as much as possible. For those out-of-pocket expenses that you can’t avoid, being prepared is the best thing to do.