Medical debt is a growing concern in the United States. A staggering 137.1 million Americans faced financial hardship in 2019 due to high medical costs.
Despite these concerns, experts expect the cost of health care in the U.S. to only increase over time. According to the California Health Care Foundation, health spending for people on medical plans is projected to rise by 50% in the next 10 years alone.
Unless systemic issues are addressed, millions of Americans will continue to be forced to choose between their health or financial well-being.
The real cost of medical debt
One of the detrimental consequences of medical debt in the U.S. is the neglect of medical problems. Nearly one in every three Americans have reported delaying medical treatment or care because they were worried about the cost.
Problems with medical debt can happen to anyone, even if they’re insured. In fact, medical debt was the number one reason that people consider taking money out of their retirement savings – regardless of their age. What’s more, is two-thirds of all personal bankruptcies are related to medical issues.
Know you have options
When it comes to medical care, there are few steps you can take to alleviate the debt you owe – or prevent it from occurring.
- Negotiate. A majority of medical bills are negotiable before, during and after you receive care. Make sure everything on your bill is correct and that there are no decencies.
- Set up a payment plan. Ask your hospital if you can set up a repayment plan to pay off your debt over time. Some hospitals even offer charity services in which you may qualify for debt forgiveness.
- Shop around. The costs of procedures and treatments can vary widely by hospital or region. Most people don’t know that they can shop around for the care they need. Lower prices don’t reflect a difference in the quality of care you receive, according to CNBC.
- Don’t sign consent. In emergency medical situations, many hospitals will require you to sign a financial consent form. If you don’t feel comfortable or aren’t sure what you’re signing, you can write “did not read” in the signature line.
If you are struggling to escape from medical debt, you’re not alone. It’s important to know that even when debt feels insurmountable, there are still many options for relief.