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Unpaid Medical Bills

Unpaid Medical Bills

A study conducted by Harvard School suggests that unpaid medical bills are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the US. Read on to know what can be done about this never-ending problem.
Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
Medical services are becoming increasingly expensive, so much so that common people are shying away from them. However, in cases of emergency you have no option but to avail expensive medical services. If you have valid medical insurance coverage, you may heave a sigh of relief as your insurance company would bear a substantial portion of the total expense. However, if you are an uninsured soul living on a meager income, then you are in deep financial trouble. Unpaid medical debt can badly affect your credit score and can make life difficult for you.
Implications
Your doctor sends the bill to your health organization or the insurance company. If you or your insurance provider fail to pay the bill within the stipulated time, you will be notified regarding the next proceedings. If you fail to settle the bill even after the notice, your bill is sent to collection agencies for recovery. This is where all the trouble begins. The collection agency representatives start harassing you day and night for the payment of the bill. You also have to endure several reminder calls from their officers, that can destroy your peace of mind. In worse cases, the collection agency might report your case to any of the three credit bureaus, namely Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union. In such cases, your credit score gets affected to a great extent. These implications of medical debts on a credit report can jeopardize your chances of obtaining low interest loans from financial institutions.
What Can be Done
Many people are unaware of the fact that hospital bill negotiation is the best way of getting a waiver on part of your bill. When you fail to pay full or part of your medical expenses, your case is assigned to a collection agency. The hospital promises a commission to these agencies if they manage to extract a stipulated amount. Anything above that can be kept as profit by the collection agencies. Thus, in this case, the hospital never recovers the entire impending amount. Hence, if you decide to talk things out with your hospital's billing department, they may agree to your request. They would rather prefer to extract the amount from you than assign your case to a debt collection agency and then paying their commission.
Hospitals also have several debt help programs which may help you out. Some hospitals allow you to pay your bills in installments, so that you don't have to endure a great financial burden at once. If you could not negotiate your bill or avail the benefits of any debt help program, consider the option of disputing the bill. If you manage to dispute the validity of the debt within 30 days of the notification that you owe it, the hospital or the collection agency cannot place the account on your credit report without a notation that you dispute owing the debt. In severe cases of medical debts, bankruptcy becomes inevitable. Debts after death are settled by selling the assets of the deceased. If the deceased left without leaving any assets, the co-signer or guarantor becomes liable for the payment.
Unpaid medical bills and claims are indeed a cause of concern for many. However, there is always a way to get out of this debt either by negotiating or disputing. Also, do not forget to analyze your medical bills properly for you might have been charged for some services that you never availed.