SAN MATEO, Calif., Dec. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — As health care premiums and expenses are rising this year, so is medical debt. But people who struggle to pay medical expenses can take steps to tackle medical debt, says Andrew Housser, co-founder and CEO of Freedom Debt Relief.
Open enrollment closes by Dec. 15 for most individuals purchasing health insurance on the health care marketplace, and open enrollment periods are closing with many employers. Nationwide, people are experiencing pricing sticker shock. Health plan premiums are increasing by as much as 50 percent in some states. With annual health insurance premiums averaging $18,764 per family in 2017 and medical coverage costs rising from 6.5 percent of household median income in 2006 to 10.1 percent of household median income in 2016, many consumers are feeling the pinch.
“Rising medical costs are most evident for people who buy their own health coverage, and for those who receive little to no help with premiums from their employers,” says Freedom Debt Relief’s Housser. “But with today’s increasing employee contributions and high-deductible plans, serious problems are in store for those who have a serious medical issue. Even people with good insurance can be responsible for thousands of dollars in medical bills.”
More than one in four Americans say that someone in their household struggles to pay medical bills. In addition to the financial challenge, the high cost of medical care leads many people to put off needed care because of its cost. However, postponing treatment or skipping needed medications may lead to more extensive and costly health problems later.
Housser and Freedom Debt Relief, a trusted debt relief provider of debt-help services nationwide, offer these tips for people who are struggling to stay out of medical debt.
- Examine all bills. Some experts estimate up to four in five medical bills contain errors. Carefully examine explanations of benefits (EOBs), and subsequent bills, from health insurers. “Check for charges insurance should cover, charges you’ve already paid or services you did not receive,” Housser advises. Call the provider’s billing department or insurance company promptly to clarify any questions. Consumers have the right to ask insurers to review and reconsider coverage decisions. Some specialists specialize in analyzing and resolving medical bills.
- Monitor credit reports. As of September 2017, the three major credit bureaus exclude medical debt on a credit report until after a 180-day waiting period. This change gives people and insurers a chance to pay or clear medical bills before they affect credit. It is still important to review credit reports for accuracy with all bills – medical or other. Obtain credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Seek financial assistance. Many health providers will consider a cash-payment discount or a payment plan. Notify providers if a medical condition makes it harder to earn income to pay bills. The provider’s billing office or a financial counselor at the hospital or medical office may be able to offer information about available aid. Some nonprofits, such as the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, may provide financial assistance to those with certain conditions. If necessary, look into free clinics or public or nonprofit hospitals and medical facilities that provide care to people in financial need.
People who are struggling with debt – including medical debt – may benefit from getting help from a debt relief company such as Freedom Debt Relief, which has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, says Housser.