Increasing health care costs have caused unforeseen medical bills to rank as one of the most common causes of financial distress. In fact, a study conducted by Harvard University reported that 62 percent of bankruptcies are linked to a medical issue, including illness or inability to pay high medical bills. If you or a family member has taken ill and are in need of financial assistance, here are a few ways to begin a search for help.
Many hospitals employ health care social workers to serve as case managers and advocates for patients. Social workers assist those having difficulty paying medical bills by finding resources to help them. Social workers also work for state agencies to help those who qualify for medical assistance programs find the help they need.
If you find yourself falling further behind on your monthly bills, you may want to sit down with a credit counselor to discuss payment plans. Credit counselors review your overall debt and devise ways to consolidate and pay off loans faster, enabling you to return to financial stability.
Insurance and Health Care Professionals
When you’re not feeling well, you tend to focus solely on getting better—and overlook minor details. When hospital and doctor’s bills arrive daily, you may be tempted to just pay them without closely examining what you owe. However, if you do have questions about your bills, and have medical coverage, your first point of contact should be your insurer’s customer service department. Health insurance companies have procedures for appealing denied claims. Hospitals also have departments that deal with the complex medical billing system. Your doctor may be familiar with resources their past patients have used. They may be able to provide additional resource referrals.
After experiencing an illness hardship, many individuals or families set up charities to assist others in need. If you find yourself unable to pay your creditors due to unforeseen medical bills, you may want to look into charities that offer assistance. Always research a charity before giving them private information. Go to Charity Navigator online or check with the IRS for information on qualified nonprofits. You can also set up your own fundraiser on crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe.
Retirement Plan – Hardship Withdrawal or 401(K) Loan
Consider a hardship withdrawal from your retirement plan to help get you back on track with your bills. Many companies do allow for hardship withdrawals in the event of an illness. Contact your company’s human resources department with questions about your specific plan. You may also be able to take out a 401(K) loan if you need help paying medical bills.
If you’re struggling to pay medical bills, help is available. You may need to try several outlets before finding the resource that best fits your situation. Start with the person you feel most comfortable speaking with – your doctor, a social worker, or even someone at work.
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