Unpaid medical bills terrify many individuals. They dread visiting the mailbox each day, as they don’t know what horror it will hold. These individuals pay on the debt monthly, often seeing no progress, and wonder if they should give up and file bankruptcy. Why is this the case? How prevalent is medical debt in America today? The answers will surprise many.
The Prevalence of Medical Debt
Research shows that approximately 137 million Americans faced financial hardship in 2019 because of unpaid medical debt. This debt leads to concern about household finances and a possible delay in seeking more medical care. The debtor feels the costs are too high and is already struggling to pay what they owe. They may forego medical care in this situation to avoid additional bills. No individual in the country should do without medical care, and Debt Legal Defense works with individuals to get relief from their existing debt so they don’t need to take this drastic step.
This problem surprisingly affects individuals between the ages of 18 and 64 more than it does those 65 years of age and older. Individuals who lack medical coverage face greater hardship when they become ill, and more health conditions mean more bills. A person who is healthy may have multiple health setbacks in a short period and find they can no longer afford to pay the associated medical bills, even though they never had issues doing so in the past. Bankruptcy is the next step for many of these people.
Individuals often attempt to work with their medical providers to set up a payment arrangement. The problem lies in agreeing upon an amount the debtor can afford to pay each month. A provider may state an amount that would leave the patient unable to pay any other bills, such as their mortgage and utilities. When the patient counteracts with a lower amount, the provider might refuse to establish the agreement and threaten legal action.
In the event they agree upon a payment arrangement, the patient cannot miss a single payment. Sadly, humans make mistakes and the debtor might miss a month because they thought they made the payment or it got lost in the mail. Many things happen that could lead to a missed payment. The provider may then take further legal action, leaving the debtor basically back to square one. The situation remains unresolved.
When a debtor doesn’t pay medical bills, the provider may choose to sue. Debtors need to go to court and mount a defense, as the court may reduce the amount owed or establish a payment plan that is within the means of the patient. However, the court might rule in favor of the defendant and will do so if the debtor doesn’t appear. When the court does so, it issues a judgment.
This judgment allows the creditor to collect the funds owed to them. They may garnish the debtor’s wages, put a lien on property owned by the borrower, or take other steps. Each state determines the amount of money the creditor may collect and what types of property may be involved. Individuals need to speak to an attorney to learn their legal rights in this situation and ensure the creditor doesn’t go outside the law when collecting this debt.
As mentioned above, individuals struggling to pay high medical debt might choose to file for bankruptcy. Although this is an option that some will find meets their needs, it’s best to pursue all other options first. A bankruptcy filing hurts the person’s credit score and will follow this person for years. The filer might find they cannot get a mortgage or secure a car loan after filing for bankruptcy, although this isn’t always the case. They must share this information on certain legal documents, as well, and may be asked to provide it on a job application or for other purposes. Don’t take this step without speaking to an experienced attorney who can provide information on the advantages and drawbacks of this option.
Mounting a Medical Debt Defense
There is one option many individuals overlook when paying down their medical debt. Most people do not review their medical bills for accuracy, which is a mistake. Every bill needs to be reviewed to ensure it doesn’t contain errors or overcharges, as this happens more often than medical providers would like to admit. In fact, an article posted on BeckersHospitalReview.com states up to 80 percent of all medical bills contain errors. A debtor might learn they don’t owe as much as they believe once a review of the bills is complete.
However, when they find these errors and overcharges, the patient or their advocate must contact the medical provider to address the issue. A person may hesitate to do so as they don’t like confrontation and worry the provider will become upset. Other men and women don’t take this step because they continue to struggle with health issues and don’t want to add more stress to their lives. Turn this matter over to someone to handle on your behalf, as you shouldn’t pay what you don’t owe.
An attorney becomes of great help when errors and overcharges are found on medical bills. However, they also work with clients to review the bills so they can identify any potential issues. This service immensely helps those who are recovering from a major health issue, as allowing someone else to do this works ensures they can remain focused on their recovery.
In addition, the attorney handles all communications with the medical providers. This removes a burden from the patient, which they greatly appreciate. The attorney also goes to court on behalf of the patient when the case makes it this far.
Sadly, many individuals don’t know this type of help is available. They try to navigate the medical billing system by themselves and often give up when they don’t see results. Contact a debt relief attorney today to see if they provide this assistance, as many lawyers do. They may help you overcome this pressing issue and get your life back on track financially.