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What to do if you can’t afford your medical bills

A straightforward guide to helping you lower your medical bills or get them forgiven

What to do if You Can't Afford Your Medical Bills_FREEPIKNEEDCREDITLINE.jpg

We've all been there: A medical bill lands in your hands and you’re left wondering how you’ll ever pay it down. You're not alone. A recent study found that 41 percent of folks are in debt because of medical and dental bills.

Here at WorkMoney, we’ve got your back. We've got the low-down on debt-relief options that can shrink those bills and offer payment plans that fit your wallet. Read on for an easy-to-follow guide on how to confront those medical bills

Get savvy about your rights

Healthcare is a maze, and wrapping your head around the legal stuff and those confusing medical bills is key to keeping your money where it belongs: in your bank account! One place to start is to take a look at the No Surprises Act

The No Surprises Act is exactly what the name sounds like. It’s meant to protect you from getting blindsided by medical bills. Under this law, people covered under group and individual health plans have several rights, like:

  • No unexpected charges for emergency care at an out-of-network place. If you're in an emergency and end up somewhere out-of-network, they can't charge you more than they would in-network.
  • In-network costs for extra care. They can’t charge you out-of-network prices for things like ambulance services or anesthesia at an in-network hospital.
  • Clear-cut info. Your medical provider is required to be transparent about your rights, your responsibilities, and your likely out-of-pocket costs.

Know your rights so that if you are hit with a surprise medical bill, you can reach out to the provider and work through reducing that bill. 

Don’t be afraid to negotiate

It’s true – medical bills can be negotiated! 

Start by getting an itemized bill so you can double-check those charges. Then, speak with the provider’s billing department to go over anything that you might have questions about or to talk about payment options.

Providers are usually open to alternatives to paying the whole bill, like offering a discount if you can pay some of it upfront. Here are a few things you might consider discussing with them:

  • Interest-free repayment plans: Share your financial story and see if they're open to an interest-free repayment plan. This approach can help you clear your debt quicker by preventing it from getting any bigger.
  • Structured payment plans: If handing over a lump sum feels like a blow to your wallet, consider negotiating for manageable monthly payments.
  • Debt reduction or forgiveness: Many healthcare providers have programs to reduce or even forgive medical debt. Ask your provider about these options.

Check out charity programs at hospitals

More than half of the hospitals in the U.S. are nonprofits, which means they have to offer something called “charity care programs” to keep that status. These programs can help lower medical bills for lots of folks. 

The thing is the paperwork can be tough. We did some research and we found a partner that we trust that can help. They’re called Dollar For and they help folks check if they’re eligible, fill out the paperwork, and wipe out those medical bills. And the services are totally free. 

After checking for charity care eligibility, Dollar For offers two debt assistance options:

  1. Full service: Dollar For handles everything, from preparing to submitting applications.
  2. Self-advocacy: Dollar For guides you through the process with handy tips and tools if you prefer to file on your own.

Head over to Dollar For to see if you're a good fit for hospital charity care programs or medical debt relief. If you don't qualify for charity care, Dollar For helps you find other local resources to cut down your bills.