The cost of medical care can keep you from achieving financial milestones year-round. And during the holiday season, unpaid medical debt can cast a shadow on what's supposed to be the most cheerful time of year.
About 1 in 10 (11%) of Americans have skipped buying Christmas presents to afford health care, according to a new survey from HealthCareInsider. Patients have also skipped buying food (17%), traveling (16%) and making other large purchases (14%) in order to pay medical bills.
Thankfully, there are several ways to get health care costs under control ahead of the holidays. Keep reading to learn more about managing medical expenses, from hospital bill negotiation to medical debt consolidation. See your estimated interest rate for a debt consolidation loan without impacting your credit score on Credible.
How to reduce health care costs
Unpaid medical expenses can strain your budget and make it difficult to afford necessities like food and housing payments. But health care costs can also keep patients from making discretionary purchases, including holiday gift-giving. Here are a few ways to reduce your health care costs, so you can have the freedom to spend your money as you see fit:
Learn more about your debt management options in the sections below.
With the high cost of health insurance, it's easy to assume that necessary medical procedures are covered. But making assumptions about the cost of health care may leave you stuck with an unexpected out-of-pocket expense.
More than half (51%) of survey respondents said they received a surprise medical bill in the past year. Of those who did, 33% said that bill was over $500. Here are a few ways to prepare for medical costs in advance:
- Ask about pricing before consenting to care. Common medical procedures can come with large variations. A recent New York Times report found that an MRI varied by more than $2,000 across providers. You may be able to find a doctor that offers the same service at a lower cost.
- Use a health care pricing tool to estimate costs. Some major health insurers offer pricing estimates on their website. You can also use a third-party tool like Healthcare Bluebook to ensure you were charged a fair price.
- Reach out to your health insurance company. They may have medical billing advocates on staff to help you find reduced-cost care or in-network providers. You can also request a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) to learn more about your health insurance plan.
However, any patient who's received emergency medical care knows it's not always possible to plan for medical costs. If this is the case, consider your options for negotiating hospital bills or consolidating medical debt with a loan. You can learn more about debt consolidation loans by getting in touch with a knowledgeable expert at Credible.
It may be possible to reduce or eliminate your medical bills by reaching out to the hospital's billing department. Health care providers have been known to offer discounts for patients who pay in a lump-sum upfront.
But before getting in touch with the provider, check for medical billing errors. Check to see if you were charged for a service that was supposed to be covered by your insurance policy. Other common mistakes include double-billing or incorrect billing codes.
You should also check to see if you are entitled to financial assistance programs based on your income. Federal law requires nonprofit hospitals to offer financial aid to low-income patients. Still, almost half (45%) of these providers routinely charge patients who qualify for a charity care program, according to Kaiser Health News.
The specific regulations vary from state to state, so familiarize yourself with the laws in your area to see if you qualify for financial assistance like discounted care or an interest-free payment plan.
If you've exhausted all your other options and simply need a structured debt repayment plan for your health care costs, consider borrowing a debt consolidation loan. This unsecured personal loan allows you to repay debt in fixed monthly payments over a set period of months or years.
Personal loan rates are near historic lows, according to the Federal Reserve. The average rate on a two-year personal loan was 9.39% in Q3 2021, but creditworthy borrowers may be able to lock in an even lower interest rate.
Lenders determine personal loan interest rates and eligibility based on a borrower's credit history. You should check your credit score and get a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus before applying to determine if this option is right for you.
You can compare personal loan rates across multiple lenders on Credible to ensure you're getting the lowest rate possible for your financial situation. Then, use a personal loan calculator to estimate your monthly payment.
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