Medical bills represent a common type of debt, but in some ways this type of debt is quite unusual.
This type of debit is common in the sense that many people, including many Texans, are working to pay down medical bills that were not covered by insurance and that they could not afford upfront. Medical debt is unusual in the sense that, many times, people were not planning on incurring a medical bill at all but have to because of an urgent situation.
Moreover, patients hardly ever know the overall price for their treatment, much less their out-of-pocket share, until long after they have already received their care. Sticker shock is a real possibility, and it may seem like there is nothing a Houston-area resident can do about it.
Patients have options for dealing with significant medical bills
There are ways to negotiate a medical bill.
Many hospitals and providers have programs that can afford financial relief to patients who need the care but just do not have the means to pay. At a minimum, some providers will offer a payment plan at 0% interest.
It is also important for people to remember that, like other service providers, medical providers may have some room to negotiate on the price for their services.
For example, providers routinely offer insurance companies substantial discounts. Asking for a deal early and often may help reduce a bill to an amount that a family can afford.
Throughout the process, it is worth keeping in mind that medical bills are not as high of a priority as the mortgage, the car payment and important utility and insurance payments.
Also, it is almost never a good idea to charge a medical bill to a credit card. Doing so may get an aggressive bill collector off a person’s back, but it does not make the bill go away and it will mean very high interest rates.
Bankruptcy may be the best option to get rid of medical bills
Although negotiation with a medical provider is always possible, the difficulty families may run into is that providers do not have to negotiate their bills. They can choose to draw a hard line, demand full payment and even threaten legal action.
In other cases, other financial problems, like a job loss or disability, may make negotiating a medical bill impractical.
Oftentimes, the best way of dealing with medical debt is to file for bankruptcy protection. A successful bankruptcy can allow a Houston resident to receive a legal discharge from his or her medical bills, meaning he or she does not legally have to pay them.