When you or a loved one faces an unexpected illness or injury, medical expenses can add up quickly. In fact, over 66% of all bankruptcies are due to medical issues in the US, according to CNBC. It can be tough to focus on healing when you’re trying to deal with enormous costs, but this guide explores how to pay medical bills and stay out of debt.
Startling facts about emergency care in the US
Even a short trip to the emergency room can set an individual back hundreds or even thousands of dollars and lead to medical bankruptcy. As hospitals continue charging more for emergency care, it’s understandable why many have come to worry about these visits.
These statistics illustrate just how expensive health care in the US can be:
- From 2009 to 2016, the average cost of a visit to the ER increased a total of $722, according to the Health Care Cost Institute.
- Emergency room visits can cost anywhere from $50 to $3,000, according to the Balance.
- 1 in 4 Americans suffers from chronic health conditions that require ongoing care, such as heart disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases, according to the CDC.
- 7 out of 10 patients polled in a recent survey were overcharged for services when they used an out-of-network emergency room service, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
- Emergency rooms can charge a much higher amount for common drugstore items. For example, Neosporin could cost nearly $800, according to PBS.
Understanding options for medical care when you’re uninsured
Over 12% of working adults lack health insurance, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund’s ACA Tracking Survey. It can be understandably distressing trying to figure out pay out of pocket medical expenses—but it is important to understand all of your options and tackle your medical bills as soon as possible.
You should first check Healthcare.gov to see if your state has expanded Medicaid. If it hasn’t, call your state Medicaid office to find out if you still qualify for some kind of state health coverage. You might also consider using a patient advocacy service that may be able to help you understand how to pay medical bills without insurance. These services can also help you understand your expenses, negotiate the bills on your behalf, and offer medical bill assistance.
Six tips to help you pay for medical bills
It’s possible to get help and stay out of debt, even with large medical bills. The below six options can help you get rid of debt and put you on the path to financial relief.
1. Start by talking to your doctor
Doctors and their assistants understand healthcare bureaucracy well and may be able to steer you toward helpful resources—including hospital or health group administrators who can connect you with different forms of financial aid.
Bringing up finances and billing might actually encourage your doctor to suggest more affordable alternatives based on your budget and insurance coverage.
2. Review all your bills for extra costs you shouldn’t pay
It’s not uncommon for hospital bills to have errors, so it’s a good idea to make sure you aren’t paying for any services you didn’t receive. Some common mistakes include charging patients for a full day when they were discharged in the morning, charging patients for medications when they brought their own, and charging patients for supplies like gowns, gloves, and sheets, which should already be included in the daily room charge.
3. Negotiate your hospital bill
Some hospitals will allow you to negotiate your bills and can help you set up a payment plan that will make monthly payments more manageable. Don’t be shy—be honest with your hospital’s billing department about what you can and can’t afford to pay.
4. Find charities that help pay medical bills
If you’re still unsure how to get help paying medical bills, there are nonprofit organizations devoted to helping people with specific medical conditions. Take a look at a list of health charities and nonprofits to see if any apply to you. These organizations can be especially helpful if you have a chronic condition that requires ongoing assistance.
5. Apply for government assistance programs
Government resources can be especially useful if you meet the eligibility requirements. Here are some places to start:
- Call your state Medicare program to see if you qualify for state or federal help.
- The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides financial aid for children whose parents don’t qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford private insurance coverage.
- The Health Resources and Service Administration has a number of programs that offer affordable care to those struggling with medical expenses.
6. Use crowdfunding to pay for medical expenses
Crowdfunding has become a popular way for thousands of individuals and families to pay for expensive medical treatments when insurance coverage falls short or is nonexistent. Through crowdfunding, it’s easy to receive financial and emotional support from your network of friends and family members during a challenging time.
If you need any help along your fundraising journey, be sure to look for a crowdfunding platform that offers 24/7 customer support. Another key feature to look for in a crowdfunding site is a blog that provides medical fundraising tips or a medical crowdfunding guide so you can make the most of your fundraiser.
Most importantly, you’ll want to choose a crowdfunding platform that offers free fundraising. GoFundMe’s 0% platform fee means you can keep more of the funds you raise and meet your fundraising goals faster.
Still don’t know how to pay medical bills? We want to help
Thousands of people turn to GoFundMe every day to raise the funds they need. Whether you need help paying medical bills right now or you’re anticipating expensive treatments in the future, GoFundMe can help ease that financial burden. Are you ready to start a fundraiser to pay for medical bills? Start your free fundraiser today.