3 important tips for paying medical debt

Regardless of your insurance situation, medical debt can happen. When medical debt does occur, it often does so in a tsunami of bills that make individuals feel like they are drowning. But there are options for dealing with this debt, and the road you take depends on a variety of factors.

One reason medical debt can feel so overwhelming is that you are hit with a lot of mail within a short period of time about this debt. You'll likely receive bills from your providers as well as explanation of benefits from your insurance company. Those benefits explanations are supposed to tell you how much the provider charged, how much the insurance company allowed, how much of the allowed charges the insurance company paid and how much you owed.

One first tip in dealing with medical bills is to ensure everything is sent through your insurance company. That means for every bill from a provider, you should have a matching explanation of benefits. If you don't hear from your insurance company about a bill, then you need to determine if the provider ever billed the insurance company -- if not, find out why and ask them to bill the insurance company first.

Next, don't pay amounts that weren't allowed by your insurance company. If a provider bills $1,000 for a service, but the insurance company only allows $800, then the provider must write off $200. That means you do not have to pay it.

Finally, call your provider and ask about payment options and plans. Most medical providers are more than willing to work out payment plans with someone who is willing to make smaller payments over time. And if you can't come to a deal with your provider or cannot afford smaller payments over time, consider working with a lawyer who specializes in medical debt and bankruptcy. While you can't discharge medical debt with bankruptcy, you can bring your entire debt situation into control so you can better manage expenses.

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