How Do I Handle My Medical Debt?
Many people do not anticipate having medical bills, but unfortunately most of us will have them every now and then or have on-going medical bills. This debt can be overwhelming, especially if you or a family member are faced with bills from multiple providers and/or have an on-going illness. Here are 5 ways to help navigate and hopefully reduce the anxiety associated with medical debt.
1. Call your healthcare provider right away even if you can’t afford to pay the bill
Many clinics have financial workers that you can talk to about your bills. There may even be programs available to help with some of the debt (if you meet the qualifications). So again, don’t wait – call right away.
2. Try to set up payment arrangements
Instead of opting for a credit card to pay the entire bill, determine if a payment plan is an option. This way, you can avoid paying potential high interest on a credit card. If the payment arrangements don’t seem affordable at first, look through your budget to see if there are any temporary cuts you can make until your medical bill is paid off.
3. Find creative ways to pay your bill
Can you have a garage sale or sell something you no longer use/need? Can you babysit, mow lawns, shovel snow, or get extra hours at work temporarily?
4. Consider using savings
However, be strategic…don’t pay off an entire bill and then leave your savings balance at zero. If you have more than one bill to pay or something else unexpected comes up (i.e. car repair), then you might find yourself falling behind on something else or accruing credit card debt. The best way to use savings in this case is to pay a chunk of the bill up front and then make affordable monthly payments until the bill is paid in full – using savings only if necessary for those monthly payments.
5. Use a Health Savings / Flexible Spending Account
Many employers offer these products where you make monthly contributions and that money is set aside for medical expenses that insurance doesn’t cover. It’s taken out before taxes and then you can use it when a medical expense comes up. Before you determine the annual amount to contribute to your HSA/flex spending account, try to estimate your annual medical costs; you will be more prepared by doing so.
LSS Financial Counseling is here to offer support! Call us at 888.577.2227 if you would like to set up a free appointment with a Financial Counselor, either over the phone or in person. Or get started online!
Don’t wait to improve your financial future, take action today.
Author Elaina Johannessen is a Financial Counseling Supervisor with LSS.