Medical Bill Debt Relief: Can You Erase it?

Carl Andrews

Financial Advisor
Updated: 7/2019

Medical Bill Debt Relief

Sometimes accidents and illness happen. When these types of situations occur, the only thing you can do is seek appropriate treatment. However, medical services don’t come cheaply. Even with insurance, medical bills can reach into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a result, more and more people find themselves swimming in medical bills that they can’t pay.

One of the biggest issues with medical bills is that any event that causes you to rack up large bills is also likely to cause you to miss work. As a result, your expenses shoot up while your income bottoms out. This scenario can be a nightmare for individuals who are trying to focus on getting better. Therefore, we put together this guide to help people suffering from over-bearing medical bills so they can get relief and focus on the things that matter.

In This Article

Ensure Your Medical Bills are Accurate

One of the first steps to medical bill debt relief is to ensure that your bills are accurate. Medical billing is an incredibly complex process. With most transactions you get a good or service from someone and then they give you a bill to pay. However, medical bills are different. Insurance companies and federal regulations mandate that specific billing methods are used. These methods can cause tremendous confusion.

For example, if you have insurance, then your insurance might pay for all or part of your medical care. However, the insurance has to agree that they are responsible for the payment. If there is confusion with the coding for the services you received, then the insurance company might deny coverage for services they are responsible for. This can dramatically increase your bill.

Additionally, there are lots of small ways that coding errors can take place and increase the cost of your bill. Doctors and hospitals are usually quite busy. As a result, the medical provider might enter the wrong code for the treatment you received. This can increase your bill in addition to complications with insurance.

Some of the most common errors for medical billing include:

Service Charges Not Rendered

Sometimes mistakes happen and information for someone else’s treatment is accidentally entered on to your bill. You should request and check your medical records to check this. Make sure that every charge you’re being billed for is a service you actually received. Accidental charges can rapidly escalate the total on your medical bills because insurance companies won’t cover treatments that aren’t used for the problems you saw the doctor for.

Double Billing

Another mistake that happens quite frequently is double billing. If you’ve paid off a lot of medical bills already, then you might be experiencing double billing. Double billing occurs when you pay a bill, but before the payment is processed you’re sent another bill. The result is that it seems as if your payment has been lost. This can cause panic among many people, and is a source of stress and frustration. Check the dates of service that you’re being charged for against other bills you’ve already paid. If you’ve paid a bill for services on that date already, then you should contact your healthcare provider to see if your payment has already been processed.

Billed for Failed Medical Services

Sometimes medical tests and services go wrong. If there was a problem getting results from a blood test and you required a second blood test, then you should not be responsible for payment for the first, failed test.

Wrong Medication Prices

There are several factors that make medication prices problematic for medical billing. The price of the medication you get in hospital or from a doctor is adjusted to compensate for insurance, coding, generics versus brand-name, and more. Make sure that the medication you’re being charged for is the medication you received. Coding errors can result in much more expensive bills than you should be responsible for. For example, if your doctor gave you a generic version of a drug, but you were charged for the name-brand version, then you could be paying several times the cost of the care you received.

Medical Debt Relief Options

If your bills are accurate, then you’ll want to look into other options for medical debt relief. Thankfully, there are several options that focus on medical debt. Additionally, standard debt relief options can also include medical bills in their services.

Health Resources and Services Administration

The Health Resources and Services Administration is a federal agency that works to provide free and affordable health care options. They offer a tremendous amount of information to help people find solutions to high medical bills, and are a great first resource to investigate.

Free Healthcare Providers

Another option for keeping medical bills down is to use a free health care provider. These providers work as a part of both private and public organizations. They offer a wide range of services, and are able to help patients who need expensive medical care but can’t afford it.

Non-Profit Organizations

There are several non-profit organizations that help people with medical bills. One of the most famous examples is St. Jude’s, which provides treatment options for children with cancer. These non-profit organizations usually focus on specific illnesses or conditions, so you’ll want to look for an organization that focuses on your specific health issues to get the best results.

Government Programs

In addition to various private organizations and non-profit corporations, there are many different government programs to help with medical bills. These options come from all levels of government, local, state, and federal. Different government agencies can help you find programs to reduce or eliminate your medical bills. Moreover, they can provide information to help you avoid abusive and illegal collection efforts, as well as helping you lower the interest rate you’re being charged for medical services.

 

As you can see, medical bills don’t have to ruin your life. Use the information and options provided in this guide to ensure that you’re not being taken advantage of or suffering for someone’s mistake. Everyone deserves to live a healthy life, and medical bill debt relief can help make that happen.

FAQ

The nature of medical debt is different from other types of loans. Find out more about this topic as well as other issues related to it through the following sections:

General Information on Medical Debt

Below, you will find the most basic information regarding medical debt.

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What is medical debt?

Medical debt is a type of debt incurred through medical expenditures and other related expenses.

What type of debt is a medical bill?

Unpaid medical bills can be considered medical debt. However, the term does not apply solely to medical bills.

Are medical bills unsecured debt?

Yes. And as it is an unsecured debt, you are not putting a valuable asset at risk if you are not able to pay.

Can debt collectors charge interest on medical bills?

In most cases, you should not be charged interest by debt collectors. However, this may not be the case if the contract itself already indicates that your knowledge of their charging an interest.

Does medical debt expire?

Yes, but how long until it does will depend on specific state laws. Recognizing the debt or attempting to settle it will also restart the statute of limitations.

What percentage of Americans carry medical debt?

41 percent of Americans are burdened by medical debt. It is also one of the most common reasons for filing of bankruptcy.

Can you be sued for medical debt?

Yes, for as long as it’s still within the statute of limitations.

Can you go to jail for medical debt?

Many law firms are now using loopholes to turn a civil case such as non-payment of a debt which has zero jail time into a criminal case. Even in a civil trial, your failure to appear after being served with a subpoena can cause a judge to issue a warrant for your arrest.

Getting Out of Medical Debt

If you want to get out of your medical debt and get your life back on track, this section would be a great help to you.

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What do I do about medical debt?

You can either pay it, try to negotiate the amount, or ignore it while hoping no one would file a civil suit for it.

How do I get rid of medical debt without paying?

You can look for charities and organization that help low-income people needing help with their medical bills.

How do I reduce medical bill debt?

You may also check your bills for errors which can help reduce your debt. Finding a payment plan and getting a medical credit card (which usually has a 0% interest for a limited time) would help as well.

How do I get help with medical debt?

You may contact employees from the hospital to connect you with organizations willing to help you with your medical debt. Hiring a medical advocate who can help negotiate and evaluate your existing debt for a percentage of your savings will also be pretty helpful.

How do I pay off medical debt fast?

If you have the money, ask for a discount on your debt in exchange for you paying the whole amount in a short amount of time. Read more about the best way to pay off debt fast.

How do I get medical debt written off?

Unless you are willing to file for bankruptcy, your best bet is to simply wait for the debt to expire. Reviewing your bills for all types of errors will also up your chance of getting at least a part of your debt written off.

How do I consolidate medical debt?

You may employ the services of debt consolidation companies or apply for a secured loan which you will use to pay the debt. In both cases, just make sure that you’re actually saving money because if it does not, you’re better off paying the bills on your own.

Am I responsible for my spouse's medical debt?

If you live in a community property state, you are responsible for all debts incurred by your spouse even if it is listed exclusively under their name.

Can you inherit medical debt?

Half of US states have filial responsibility laws which essentially allows debt collectors to pursue the children for payment. If there isn’t any, the only way they can legally force descendants to pay the debt if they agreed to it in writing.

Are adult children responsible for their parent’s medical debt in Georgia?

Yes. Georgia is one of the states that can hold children responsible for their parent’s medical debts.

Credit Rating, Settlement, and Bankruptcy

Aside from actually paying your bill, what are your other options? Here, we will discuss those as well as the effects on your credit rating.

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Is medical debt on credit report?

Yes. While your medical history would remain private, your medical debt is listed on your report just like any other debt.

Does medical debt affect your credit?

Definitely. However, due to updates on algorithms on how your credit score is computed, its effect is now minimal.

Does settling a medical debt hurt your credit?

Surprisingly, no. Once your account is transferred to a debt collection agency, your report will reflect ‘settled’ or ‘charge-off.’ While either will affect your score negatively, even paying the whole amount won’t have any effect on your score anymore.

How long does unpaid medical debt stay on your credit?

Once with a debt-collection agency, it will take seven years before it is removed from your report.

How do I get medical debt removed from credit report?

You will only be able to have it removed if the information on your report is erroneous. But if you have been contacted that you have a debt that you don’t believe you owe or you have paid for already, ask for a proof first. Their failure to do so can be valid grounds for removal of medical debt on your report.

Can you settle medical debt?

Yes. But before you do, you must obtain a written documentation of the agreement.

How much should I offer to settle a medical debt?

On average, a person is able to reduce the amount by 25% to 30%. You may use this as a ballpark figure, but it would depend more on your negotiation skills.

How do I negotiate a medical debt settlement?

You may hire a company to do the negotiating for you, and usually, this is the best way if you’re not healthy yet.

Does medical debt affect buying a house?

Yes. One of the biggest factors considered with the computation of your credit score is the debt-to-income ratio. If you have a substantial debt, it would largely affect your credit score, your interest rate (if approved), as well as your ability to buy a house.

Can you file bankruptcy on medical debt?

Yes. More than 60% of Americans, in fact, have resorted to filing for bankruptcy due to unpaid medical bills.

Does bankruptcy clear medical debt?

Only under Chapter 7 bankruptcy which wipes all unsecured debts, given that your disposable income is low enough. Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, all your unsecured debts will be lumped together, and you’ll be assigned a repayment plan which reduces your debt to just pennies on a dollar.

How do I protect your assets from medical debt?

The only sure way is to place significant financial protection through insurance products. If your debt is large enough and you don’t have anything to cover it, a judge may order to liquidate some of your assets.

Can medical debt take your house?

Yes, but it is only under circumstances where your bill is extremely large. If your state does not have homestead protection or you are not covered by it, you may be forced to sell your home.

Can debt collectors garnish wages for medical bills?

No. Unless there is a judgement over that unpaid bill, your creditor cannot force your employer to garnish your wages.

How long can a medical debt be collected?

The debt is valid up from your last payment up until the statute of limitations from your state and can be collected until it expires. However, some states consider the debt “revived” even with so much as acknowledging the debt, so it’s best to see which applies to your state before speaking with the collectors.

How do I deal with medical debt in collections?

You have different options with dealing with a medical debt in collections. Some of these are verifying the items on your bill not covered in your insurance, proposing a payment plan, and qualifying for financial assistance.

Other Questions

For your concerns that may have not been addressed in the previous sections, you may find them here. The questions below are not much about your rights as they are about related topics on medical debt.

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How do I answer a summons for medical debt?

It depends largely on what the summons contains. In this case, it is best to consult with your attorney before doing anything else.

Did the Medical Debt Responsibility Act pass?

Yes. It was enacted in 2013.

How much do collection agencies pay for medical debt?

There is no data here, but as debt collection agencies need to earn from your debt, you can safely assume that it is much lower than what you actually owe.

Is RIP Medical Debt legit?

Yes. Since its founding, it has already cleared over $120 million in medical debt.

Carl Andrews


Carl has years of experience helping people tackle debt. As a Senior Financial Advisor, he knows the ins and outs of debt consolidation and debt management. He holds a Masters Degree in Finance and according to him, not all debt problems are the same and that’s why it’s important to take a look at the different options available for your situation.

 

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