Medical debt can seem like an impossible paradox. At a time when you might be recovering from a major illness, injury or procedure and unable to work or maximize your income, you're hit with large medical bills. In some cases, they never seem to stop coming, and it can be overwhelming just to track them all when various providers all bill separately for their involvement in your treatment.
Before you start robbing Peter to pay Dr. Paul, make sure you understand all your options for dealing with medical bills. Did you know, for example, that you do have some negotiation power and you might be able to drop what you owe substantially if you're willing to do a bit of research and make some phone calls?
One of the first things you should do when faced with medical bills is check the accuracy of the statements. Most providers don't automatically send a detailed breakdown, but they usually have to provide one if you ask. Check that all the services you are billed for were actually provided and ensure nothing was billed twice in error. You'll also want to double check the math after your insurance pays -- did the provider apply all of the insurance payments and credits before billing you with the balance.
Always ask about any discounts you might be able to receive. Some providers discount patient portions if you pay within a certain time period of a procedure. Others offer discounts for cash-only payments, and you might be able to apply for a sliding scale payment if your income is below a certain amount. Asking about such discounts costs little more than a bit of your time, so don't skip this step when dealing with medical bills.
If you've done your research, tried to negotiate and you still can't make ends meet with the burden of medical bills, consider other debt relief options. While medical bills can't always be written off completely in bankruptcy, you might have options for lowering or restructuring your payments.
Source: Money, "7 Smart Ways to Negotiate Your Medical Bills," Mikey Rox, accessed Jan. 19, 2017