Medical debt forced 23% of consumers to carry credit card balances with them

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Are you in the same boat?

  • New research shows that medical debt can make it difficult to pay off credit cards in full.
  • Whenever possible, it is helpful to take steps to avoid medical debt, such as negotiating with health care providers.

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Medical debt is something that many consumers have to deal with. Unfortunately, having health insurance does not exclude the risk of accumulating it.

About 53% of U.S. consumers say the pandemic has forced them to take on new medical debts, according to a new survey by Discover Personal Loans. What’s even more troubling is that among those with medical debts, 23% say they were forced to make only minimal credit card payments rather than paying off those balances in full.

Maintaining a credit card balance can be costly when interest starts to build up over time. It can also damage your credit rating.

And this is not the only consequence of medical debt. For some, too much arrears on health bills may mean falling behind other spending and missing out on key targets. Plus, medical debt can be a major source of stress.

For this reason, it is best to avoid medical debt whenever possible. Obviously, in many cases this is easier said than done. But there are several steps you can take to either avoid medical debt or reduce the amount you ultimately receive.

1. Check your insurance payments before seeking medical help.

Sometimes a simple accident on your part can cause your health insurance company to refuse coverage. If you need to get a referral from your primary healthcare provider, for example to see a specialist, and you don’t take that step, you could be hooked on a very expensive bill.

This is why it is a good idea to check your benefits before seeking medical attention. If you cannot get the information you need online, call your insurer and talk to your current representative about your specific plans and concerns.

2. Check your medical bills carefully.

People who make medical claims from health care providers are not perfect. Sometimes a simple mistake in the billing code is enough for an insurance claim to be denied, leaving you with a giant bill.

Review your medical bills carefully to make sure everything is in order before you pay. If you are charged an amount that seems inappropriate, call your provider and ask for an explanation.

Also, if your health insurance company denies a claim you expected to pay, find the relevant bills and ask for an explanation of your benefits. You may find that your claim was denied due to a wrong procedure code and a simple fix saves you hundreds of dollars.

3. Agree with providers.

Sometimes you may have medical expenses that you have to pay out of your own pocket. If you know you will take the tab alone, talk about it. You never know when a service provider might want to cut your costs, or even develop a flexible payment plan that allows you to spread your financial obligations over an extended period of time.

Medical debt can be a leading cause of personal bankruptcies and apparently can also lead to credit card debt. Credit card debt may not be as serious as filing for bankruptcy, but it is still a fate to be avoided. First, you should do your best to avoid medical debt.

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