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Dealing with large medical bills

One of the largest debts facing many Americans today is medical bills. Medical bills can be enormous, and they are also surprising for many patients who didn't realize treatment would be so expensive or thought their insurance company would cover more of the charges. Dealing with medical bills can be frightening, but with the right approach, even these bills are not always impossible.

When you first receive a medical bill, do a bit of investigation. Make sure your insurance paid an appropriate portion or that they didn't deny the claim for a mistake on the part of the provider. This might warrant spending some time on the phone with your provider and insurance company, but since you can save hundreds or even thousands in the process, it's worth it.

You might also request a detailed billing statement from your provider, especially if you were in the hospital. Usually, providers only send you a summary of your charges. A detailed statement lets you see if they mistakenly charged for services you didn't receive or if they double charged you for anything. You can demand that a provider correct a bill before you pay it.

Once you are sure the amount owed is correct, most providers will work with you on a payment plan. Providers typically understand that patients don't have thousands on hand to pay medical bills, so they are willing to take monthly payments. Because you can't always discharge medical bills in a bankruptcy, this is usually a good way to go.

Understanding your entire debt and financial situation is important, because medical bills are usually not the only bills someone faces. Working with a professional to establish debt relief strategies for your entire situation is often the best way toward a positive future.

Source: NBC News, "How to Deal With the Pain of a Surprise Medical Bill," Kelli B. Grant, Aug. 28, 2015

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