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How to avoid crushing medical debt

If you’ve ever found yourself saddled with crippling medical debt, you’re not alone. According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, in 2018 alone 137 million Americans reported experiencing financial hardship due to medical bills. In a separate study from TD Ameritrade, medical debt was the number one reason Americans said they would tap into their retirement savings early. Clearly, this is an issue. Here are some ways to deal with medical debt so that it doesn’t become too big of a burden to carry.

Shop Around

It might seem odd to shop around for the price of a medical procedure, but it’s a good idea. Costs for can vary widely depending on where you have the procedure done. According to CNBC, one hospital charged $44,000 for heart surgery, while another charged $500,000. That’s a huge difference. Worried that the cheaper route might lead to lesser care? Studies have shown that prices have no bearing on the quality of care.

Wait To Sign

Some hospitals ask you to sign both a health-care form and a financial consent form. The former simply details what procedures are about to take place; the latter can be problematic. If the bill comes and you’ve signed the financial consent form, you could be on the hook for everything, even incorrectly billed items. You can sign the health-care form, but not the financial consent form. This way you can review the bill for inaccuracies after the procedure is completed.

Negotiate Payments

Hospitals want their money, no matter how they get it. When the bill comes, go through it in detail and first make sure it’s all correct. Then call the hospital or doctor’s office and ask about payment options. You’ll be surprised by how open they are to working with you.

Chris O'Shea

Chris O'Shea

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