Is crowdfunding a good option for handling medical debt?

People are turning to crowdfunding websites to raise money for just about everything -- including medical bills. Sites like GoFundMe, GiveForward, FundRazr, Red Basket and Plumfund allow people to seek money from friends and strangers alike. Most of these sites charge some type of fee or take a percentage of the donations.

According to a study by NerdWallet, over 40 percent of 2015 crowdfunding campaigns were to help pay off medical debt. However, only 11 percent of those campaigns on the sites listed above received the full amount sought. The average amount requested was $15,721.

Despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more than a quarter of adults report that their medical bills cause financial problems for them. However, relying on others to pitch in and help you cover them is not the best solution for paying off medical debt.

Credit experts recommend working directly with your health care providers to negotiate a payment plan or to get them to accept what you and your insurance company have already paid them. After all, it costs them money to send your account to a collection agency. Many would prefer to avoid that if a patient is able and willing to pay a portion of what is owed.

It's best to communicate with your provider sooner rather than later to avoid having your account go into collection, which can seriously impact your credit score. Generally, they do that within about 120 days of bills going unpaid.

If you're having difficulty coming to a resolution with your provider, it's a good idea to seek advice from a credit and/or legal professional who can advise you on how to work with the individuals or entities you owe so that you can get out from under your medical debt.

Source: MartketWatch, "Crowdfunding medical bills not best way to raise cash for care," Anna Helhoski, Dec. 27, 2016

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