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Easy Way To Keep Medical Bills From Going To Collections

Updated on March 19, 2009

Medical bills can be a devastating blow to anyone regardless of the debt situation they were living with prior to accumulating the medical debt. I know, I've been there twice.

An abdominal hernia surgery left me with $2300 in medical bill debt. I lost my job 2 months afterwards. Instead of taking a proactive approach I let the medical bills come into the house, and then left them to be ignored in the mail pile. For 6 months I did nothing to deal with the medical debt I had incurred and my medical accounts were turned over to collection agencies. 4 separate bills went to 4 separate collection agencies. My negligence to handle my medical debt responsibly left me in a situation of now incurring an average of 12% interest rate on each of the medical bills and regular phone calls from the debt collectors requesting payment.

When I went back to work, I got my head of straight. I was able to talk my way out of a portion of the interest owed. I moved my bills incurring 12% interest to a credit card with a much lower rate. I am still working to pay off the medical debt, but I'm getting a handle on it.

medical bills can add up quick
medical bills can add up quick

Avoid Medical Debt Collectors.. Take Responsibility

The second surgery was a year later for endometriosis in my abdominal wall. The location was very close as was the amount of money it cost me. This surgery was $2100. 3 months after the surgery, I was laid off. Seemed like all the same story, just a different pain in my stomach post recovery.

This time, I was responsible. When the bills started coming in, I took care of them. To get a handle on medical bills I realized instead of focusing on the total number I owed, I needed to focus on a smaller monthly number I could afford. Payment plans are the best way to get a handle on overdue medical bills.

Eliminate The Small Stuff

Some medical bills can be small, but left unhandled they can make a statement on your credit report. Avoid getting into any trouble with the smaller bills by making it a priority to pay these off first.

For Medical Debt Billed Through The Hospital Or Doctors Office

  1. Gather all medical bills and add up the total amount owed.
  2. Identify any bills that are from the same medical office or have assigned you the same account number.
  3. Put aside any small bills under $100 that you can pay right away.
  4. Determine how much you can afford to make in monthly payments for your medical bills.

For any that are due to the same medical office or doctor, call up the billing office and explain your situation. Request to set up a recurring billing for as low amount as they allow.

Do the same for the rest of your medical bills. Cash talks. With every request, make an immideate payment over the phone. This will tell the billing specialist that your are commited to paying off your debt. Establishing an automatic billing payment will also help encourage the medical billing specialist to work with you and your situation. I promise this works. I have a $1700 due to one creditor, a combination of 3 different invoices, and I was able to set up a $30 a month payment to continue until my debt is payed off.

If there are too many bills, and you do not have enough each month to cover a regular payment for all of them, request that your account be put on hold, set for a payment to be made the month that one of your others will be paid. This works best if its only a few months in advance.

For Medical Debt Already In Collections

Medical debt interest can be negotiated through the creditor agency. If you have accumulated some additional interest on top of the amount you already owe for the medical procedure, call the debt collector and ask what you have to do to reduce the amount you owe. Sometimes setting up a payment plan can help stop the credit from accumulating, Sometimes a payoff payment for the entire amount of the medical bill minus the interest can work.

If the collection agency will not work with you, consider combining debts onto a credit card or line of credit. My collection interest amount was 12%, I was able to put these onto a 4.99% credit rate using a credit card balance transfer offer.  Making 1 payment on a credit card was much easier then making multiple payments to collection agencies. Plus, when I called the collection agencies to ask for pay off amounts, I was able to reduce the amount I owed just by asking and saying that I was going to pay off first the ones who could lower the amount I owed them.

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