Negotiating Medical Debt (continued)
If you cannot pay your medical debt, then you cannot pay it, and therefore you must demand that the hospital or other medical-related business work with you so that you can repay the debt in affordable monthly payments. When negotiating with medical creditors, it is important that you do the following:
Notify the creditor as quickly as possible that you cannot pay the debt. Do not wait for them to refer your account to an aggressive collection agency who will likely sue you for even a minimal amount of money, as little as $100.
- Keep meticulous records of all your dealings with the creditors, including the names and phone numbers of those you speak with, as well as date and times you spoke with them. Whenever you speak with someone on the phone, as soon as you hang up, write down what was discussed and agreed to in the phone call.
- Send in some sort of payment on a regular basis. If you agreed to pay a specific amount each month, then do so, and send in your payment before the due date. Even if you are so destitute that you cannot make regular monthly payments, try to send in some sort of amount each month to show you are making a good faith effort in paying off the debt. Keep the creditor informed as to the reasons why you cannot make payments now and what you expect you will be able to repay in the future.
- Negotiate with your insurance company: Perhaps you have insurance, but your insurer refused to pay all or a portion of your medical bills. If this is the case, take advantage of the appeals process with your insurance company. In addition, many states have an office to resolve disputes with HMOs. Of course, with Medicare and Medicare HMO, you are always allowed an appeals process.
Option 2: Seek repayment assistance from government / charity programs.
There are federal and state assistance programs as well as private programs to help those who can't pay their medical bills. These include Medicaid; Medicare Savings Programs (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary, Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary and Qualified Individual Programs); charity or free care eligibility programs; and pharmacy assistance programs. If you think you might qualify for a state, federal or charity program, start phoning organizations in your area that might help you find the right agency: United Way, Salvation Army, etc. More options are available in our "Ways to Save Money" section.
(a) Apply for Medicaid. Medicaid is a federal program operated by the individual states to provide health care to the poor. If you qualify, you might be able to get medical bills you have already incurred paid by Medicaid. Generally, the following people with low incomes or certain disabilities qualify:
- Those under the age of 19 or who are aged 65 and older
- Those who are blind or disabled
- Those who are related to and are the caretaker of a deprived child (meaning that one or both parents must be absent from the home, or at least one parent must be unemployed or incapacitated)
Debt Negotiation -- Table of Contents