How To Create a Payment Plan for Hospital Bills

FT Contributor  | 

There is a rising amount of medical debt in the U.S. Almost 6 in 10 Americans claim to have suffered financial hardship as a result of the costs of healthcare. Whether Americans are worried about how they’ll be able to afford medical care, struggling to do so, or completely avoiding the care that they need because they can’t afford it, people across the nation are suffering because of the increasing costs of medical care.

For many, a payment plan could help alleviate debt and stress. Whether your healthcare provider offers payment plans or not, you can structure a payment plan for hospital bills that aligns with your financial situation.

Understanding Your Medical Bill

Receiving a bill can be intimidating, but it’s important to remember that a medical bill is only an offer. Essentially, there’s always room to dispute a medical bill. While this may take more effort on your part, it’s worth it to diminish the costs.

Before beginning on a payment plan, make sure you’ve reduced your medical bill to the lowest possible cost you can. Review your bill with your doctor’s office, especially if you have questions or concerns about a particular aspect of your bill. A simple conversation can end up saving you hundreds of dollars.

Whatever you do, never ignore your medical bills. Doing so will get them sent to collections, which will only worsen your financial situation. In some cases, it may be wise to see if you are eligible for Medicaid. This can significantly lessen what you owe on your medical bills.

Understanding Medical Debt Payment Plans

If you can’t afford to pay your medical debt in one lump sum, you can often arrange to make monthly payments over time. Note that paying off medical debt is not always as manageable and clear-cut as paying off credit card or loan debt is.

There are a number of pros and cons to debt payment plans. One advantage medical debt has over other kinds of debt is that there’s usually no interest payment. If there is, it’s usually low. Your doctor may offer monthly payment plans that are negotiable. They may start out with a number, but you can talk them down to a price point that works for you.

How to Create Your Payment Plan

Below we’ll list the steps you need to take to create a payment plan for medical bills. It should be noted that if you choose to take this route, self-autonomy is a necessity. You are responsible for making payments in full and on time according to the plan you create.

Make Calls

Healthcare providers are usually willing to create a payment plan with you. Doctors,  dentists, and other medical care professionals may be flexible if they can tell you are intent on paying the bill. Connect with your doctor to find out if they offer any kind of payment plan that will work for your budget.

Take Notes and Negotiate

When you do contact your respective doctor, make sure to take notes. Don’t forget to negotiate your bill. The prices they offer you initially aren’t set in stone. In some cases, you may be eligible for a discount if you make payments in cash. Don’t let the healthcare professionals make all the decisions for you.

Ask About No-Interest Payment Plans

Some hospitals even offer a no-interest payment plan, but it’s not something that’s offered right away. You have to ask about it. Don’t be ashamed to ask about such a plan, especially if it’s going to significantly impact what you owe each month.

Consider All Your Options

If a payment plan isn’t possible or that alone does not suffice, there are other options.

Medical Credit Cards

Another form of a payment plan, medical credit cards are distributed by either the hospital, your doctor’s office, or an independent institution. This type of credit card is specific to medical procedures.

Most medical credit cards offer interest-free financing for a period of six to 12 months, depending on the provider. If you can use the credit card to pay for your care in full over that amount of time, this may be a viable option for you.

Note that if you don’t pay off the balance on time or if you’re late on payments, the interest and late fees can be significant. Ensure you’re able to make accurate, on-time payments before signing on for a medical credit card.

Medical Loan

Medical loans can be useful as a last resort for huge medical bills, as you can usually obtain a substantial amount fairly quickly. Additionally, a medical loan can be cheaper to pay back than a credit card bill.

While easily attainable, medical loans can be subject to high-interest rates, especially for someone with a poor credit history. Depending on the terms you qualify for, you could be looking at more debt than you started with.  

Crowdfunding

Many people who need help paying off medical bills often resort to crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is a way to collect small amounts of money from multiple people via the internet.

According to GoFundMe’s CEO, the reason one-third of users resort to GoFundMe is to cover healthcare costs. To succeed with crowdfunding, have someone else sponsor the fundraiser for you. Be as specific as possible about what the money is going to be used for. This helps the people donating feel like they aren’t getting scammed, motivating them to want to help you.

If you have a hospital bill but know you can’t afford it, there are other options. Communicate with your doctor to find out if they offer payment plans or create one of your own to prevent your bills from going into collections.


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This post was updated December 2, 2019. It was originally published December 2, 2019.