No Insurance? What Are Your Options When It Comes to Medical Bills?
Unfortunately, for many Americans, life without health insurance is a reality they face on a daily basis. Not having health insurance is a less than ideal situation, because it can prevent you from visiting the doctor’s office in a timely matter and, worse, may result in very large bills in the event that you become sick and have to go to the hospital. If you are uninsured and find yourself with very large medical bills, do not panic. There are ways for you to manage your medical bills.
Register for any state or county wide health program that is available to you
Most states offer some kind of program that will give you access to state or county run health services in the event that you need them. These programs are available to you at low, and sometimes no cost. It is better to register for them before you need them, so that you will already be input into the system, but even if you have already received care at a state or county facility, you can likely register with one of these programs for retroactive coverage.
Before visiting a clinic or doctor’s office, call and explain to them that you do not have health insurance
Many doctors may be able to adjust your rate if they know that you will be paying your entire fee out of pocket. You may also want to talk to your doctor’s billing office about whether they can set you up on a payment plan, which could allow for you to pay off any bills you owe in monthly installments. Often, doctor’s offices and hospitals work with third party lenders that offer low or no interest on at least part of the bill that you have due.
If possible, pay your bill in cash
If you have cash available, tell your doctor’s office that you would like to try to pay your bill in one lump sum. Many offices offer deep discounts to patients who pay in cash, and may be able to drastically reduce the amount you owe in exchange for a lump sum payment. If you have the ability to plan ahead, consider putting away a little money in a savings account, in the event that you need it for a medical reason. If you have already received medical care and are worried about paying for it, you may even want to ask a friend or family member if they can loan you some money to take care of the bill.
Research non-profits dedicated to helping with medical issues
Depending on the condition that you entered the doctor’s office or hospital for, there may be some non-profits dedicated to helping you cover some of your expenses. Do an online search, or talk to the billing department at your hospital and see if they can refer you somewhere.
Always make an attempt to pay something
Being hit with a bill that you feel is unmanageable can be very overwhelming and anxiety inducing. The temptation to ignore a bill or wait until later to deal with it can be very strong, but delaying payment or avoiding a billing office will only add fees to the amount of money you owe and will start to negatively impact your credit. Be upfront with the doctor or hospital, and let them know that you want to pay something. It takes offices much time and effort to track down outstanding payments, so they would always rather take a small payment than nothing. Work with the billing office until you have set up a payment plan that is manageable for both of you.