Medical debt is a huge issue in the United States. In fact, it is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the country. While in many cases these expenses are unavoidable, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from massive medical bills. Here are a few ideas for keeping your head above water.
6 Tips for Avoiding Medical Debt.
- Do your homework on your insurance: The easiest way to get saddled with huge debt is to go without insurance or visit doctors out of your network. Understand exactly what your insurance covers. Make sure you get your money’s worth out of your plan.
- Beware the hidden costs of treatment: Before you sign up for any medical treatment, make sure you are aware of all the costs and what your insurance might not cover. Unfortunately, these days it is common for hospitals to use out-of-network doctors. These have the potential to drive up your bills in a big way. If possible, know the costs of a treatment before agreeing to any nonemergency procedure.
- Pick the right pharmacy: Medicine does not cost the same at every pharmacy. Pick one that is in your insurance company’s preferred pharmacy network. Do some shopping around to find the best price on your medications. This will save you a lot of money in the long run, especially if these are drugs you take every day.
- Don’t be afraid to contest bills: Most people just accept medical bills as they come. You shouldn’t do this. Go through your bills to make sure your insurance company covered everything they claimed they would. Americans leave an estimated $58 billion on the table every year because they don’t doublecheck their insurance companies. Also, for large operations, do your best to negotiate the cost with your medical provider. You may be surprised by their flexibility.
- Have an emergency fund: Most Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. This means they are one medical emergency away from big debt issues. To protect yourself from this, try building an emergency fund. This will help you pay large copays and other medical expenses. Saving the money can be tough, but once you build the fund it’s a lot easier to maintain than it will have been to build it.
- Consider a Health Savings Account: Some businesses offer Health Savings Plans for their employees. If your company offers one, you should seriously consider it. This is a tax-favored plan that helps you save money to take care of your medical expenses. It is a good way to save for emergencies more affordably.
These are all helpful ways to help protect yourself against medical debt. It’s best to take every precaution. However, there are still many cases where a catastrophic emergency will create expenses that are simply unreasonable. For situations like this, filing for bankruptcy may be the wisest option.
Kevin D. Judd is a DC bankruptcy lawyer who fights passionately to provide his clients with a gateway to financial freedom.