Have you just got into debt due to a health crisis or have trouble paying your medical bills? You’re not alone. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that 100 million Americans have health care debt.
Tackling medical debt can feel overwhelming. However, it’s possible to pay it off and have a fresh start — lots of people have successfully gotten out of debt.
Managing your personal finances is just as important for your health and wellness. Read more to find out how to get out of medical debt in Los Angeles.
Planning Before and During Treatment
Planning ahead is the first step to getting out of debt and avoiding debt altogether.
- Get the best insurance you can afford. Make sure you know what your copays, coinsurance, and deductibles are. Don’t be afraid to talk to the insurer about all the potential out-of-pocket costs.
- Make sure your care is covered. When your doctors map out your treatment plan, check if all the providers you need to see are in-network and if anything needs to be preapproved. If you’re planning a procedure, ask your insurance company, doctor, or hospital lots of questions.
- Make sure you’re eligible for financial aid — and be prepared to argue for it. Almost every hospital offers financial assistance, or “charity care.” Each hospital sets its own rules, but typically waives or discounts bills for patients earning less than two to three times the federal poverty line. Try it even if you’re not sure if you qualify. Get your pay stubs and tax returns and be ready to prove your case.
- Get a breakdown of every service, prescription, or treatment you get. Don’t forget to keep an eye on costs. Make sure you keep track with a family member or a support group. Don’t assume that just because insurance covers one part of your treatment, it covers everything.
- Make sure your providers are in-network. Out-of-network charges should be limited by the No Surprises Act. “Surprise” billing is banned for most emergency care and some routine care with out-of-network providers. Additionally, it limits what providers can charge for out-of-network doctors and gives patients more power to dispute them. You might be able to appeal a charge if it wasn’t disclosed to you.
- Directly negotiate with the hospital. Negotiate with the hospital’s billing department or administration if you can’t pay. Make sure you ask about any other financial assistance the hospital might offer or negotiate a monthly payment you can afford. This saves the hospital from having to deal with unpaid bills, and it might prevent them from going to collections.
If You Are Already in Debt
While the impulse is understandable, avoiding the issue won’t help and will likely make things worse. Try to keep advocating for yourself and your family, whether it’s by seeking medical debt relief in Los Angeles or asking a professional.
- Try to qualify for charity care. Hospitals sometimes overlook or don’t screen patients for financial assistance. Charity care and other community benefits are required by law for nonprofit hospitals. Self-advocacy makes all the difference here. It’s not uncommon for hospitals to retroactively qualify patients and write off their debts.
- Dispute your bill if it’s wrong. Debt collectors have to give the patient a written notice with the amount owed, the name of the creditor, and how to dispute the bill. Patients can dispute inaccurate bills within 30 days. Even patients who have bills in collections can apply for financial assistance if they haven’t already. If the patient qualifies, the collector can’t charge more than what the patient would’ve had to pay.
- Seek legal help for your debt. There are lawyers who will represent consumers free of charge in legal cases, including medical debt. They might be able to argue your case on your behalf, especially if one or both of them have violated consumer protection laws.
Get to Know Your Debt Relief Options
Bankruptcy isn’t always the end, but it can give you a fresh start. If you’re looking for a bankruptcy lawyer in Los Angeles, we at The Law Office of R. Grace Rodriguez can help. We help people with bankruptcy issues rise up once more and explore all the debt relief options available to them.
Let us help you understand what a bankruptcy entails and how it can benefit or hurt you. Call us today at (818) 734-7223 to get started.