Medical bills are charged for any medical services you receive—with or without medical insurance. After leaving the hospital, you may be aware that you have something to pay, but the actual bill may not arrive until a weeks or even months later. When that happens, it can be very easy to lose or forget about unpaid medical bills. But what can you do if it’s been a long time, and you cannot remember who you owe the money to or how much? Unpaid medical debt does not just go away, and it is important to pay the funds you owe! Here are some ways to find unpaid medical bills.
Check Your Credit Reports
Medical bills by themselves will not show up on your credit reports. However, if the hospital, clinic, etc., decide to send those bills to a debt collector/debt collection agency, it will be a part of your credit history. And so, if you want to make sure you don’t have lingering unpaid medical debt, checking your credit reports from all three credit bureaus will help.
You can get a free annual credit report from each bureau online. Equifax, Experian, and Transunion are the major credit bureaus and offer consumer credit reports for Americans. If you are unsure how to read your credit reports, learn how to do so before ordering them, collection accounts are usually around the middle or end.
Once you know how much you owe, paying the collections account off as soon as possible is best. Having an account in collections will really hurt your credit scores, and that account will stay on your credit reports for up to seven years, which can harm many aspects of your finances!
Check All Your Mail
In most cases, your medical bills will be mailed to your residential address. But like many people who don’t pay their bills by mail, you may have missed a medical bill because you simply do not go through your mail for that kind of stuff. And so, no matter how old your mail is, if you have it, definitely go through any that looks like it was from a medical provider—including lab work companies! Also, if you have recently moved and haven’t changed your address, you should check your old residence for any potential mail and, of course, report your change of address ASAP.
Log in to Your Online Portals
If you have a network of hospitals/health care providers you visit, you probably were instructed to create a login with your email or phone number so you can log into their online portal. Most hospitals have this so you can set up appointments online, check prescriptions, and sign paperwork online instead of in the waiting room. You should also be able to see any medical balances you have left to pay and what they are for. And so, if you are unsure if you have a medical bill, you can start your search by logging online to one of these portals.
Listen to Your Old Voicemails
Some medical practice places may also contact you via phone on top of the mail. Unfortunately, most of us no longer answer unknown numbers because of the amount of spam out there, which means we may miss important phone calls. Including calls about medical debts owed. And so it may be helpful to go back and listen to your voicemails to see if there were any necessary phone calls you missed; you may find a medical bill you forgot about in your voicemail box.
Contact Hospitals You Had Care In
Another thing you can do is to contact clinics or hospitals in which you can remember having care in. With some basic information about yourself, such as your name, birth date, and address, a medical receptionist can tell you whether you owe money to that particular place for medical care.
Call Your Health Insurance Company
Medical insurance is one of the many ways that most Americans pay for medical services. If you have health insurance, contacting them can be helpful when looking for an unpaid medical bill. Whenever you seek medical care, you will be asked whether you have insurance, and if you do, they will send some of the bill to insurance. And so, your medical insurance company should have a record of any medical bills they paid partially or give you an idea of what healthcare provider to start with when looking for an unpaid bill.
Can I Be Sued for Unpaid Medical Debt?
Unfortunately, if the medical debt is passed into a collections agency or debt collector, you can be sued for unpaid medical debt. This can entail a legal process, including a hearing you will have to attend. In most cases, the medical debt collections company may work out a payment plan or lump sum.
What About Cosmetic Medical Procedures?
For cosmetic medical procedures, you may not see medical bills. Sometimes, you may have to pay for the entire procedure beforehand. However, if you finance the procedure, you may have other bills to pay.
What Do I Do If I Am Getting a Bill for Paid Medical Debt?
Medical providers and medical insurance companies can definitely make billing errors. And so, if you know you have paid your medical bills, call your insurance or medical provider to clear things up—you should never have to pay the same bill twice because of incorrect bills! Having bank statements, credit card statements, etc., showing proof of payment will definitely help.
What Should I Do If I Cannot Pay Medical Debts?
Medical bills affect the finances of Americans from all walks of life. If you have a chronic illness, have major surgery, or stay in a hospital for even one night, you could owe thousands of dollars even more for uninsured patients. If you have a medical bill you cannot pay, there are options to help you get some relief; here are some options to consider:
Consult With a Billing Advocate
A billing advocate is like a financial advisor for your medical bills. They can negotiate and contact medical providers for you to help save you money and work out a plan to pay off your medical debt. They may also have more experience asking for things like an itemized bill, which can significantly lower your owed amount.
Talk to Medical Collections at Your Doctor’s Office
One of the most important things you can do if you are struggling to pay your medical debt is to contact the billing part of your hospital/clinic. In most cases, they will be willing to work out some kind of payment plan option with you, which can lower the monthly minimum payment for your medical bills/increase the installment amounts. Staying active on your payments can prevent the hospital from turning to debt collectors, which you want to avoid!
Look Into Financial Assistance for Medical Expenses
Another thing you can consider is looking into financial assistance programs. There are government programs you can look at when facing financial difficulties. Along with charities/nonprofit organizations that may help you take care of your medical debt.
Consider Different Financial Products for Medical Costs
Loan or credit options can also work as an option to pay off medical debts. Many people turn to CareCredit when they need to finance medical procedures, which is a specialized credit card for healthcare expenses. With good credit, you can also turn to standard credit cards, standard personal loans, or loans from a bank or credit union. Borrowers with bad credit can look into title loans, secured credit cards, payday loans online, or bad credit personal loans. When taking out a bad credit loan, it is important to avoid the high-interest loan types, so you may want to stay away from payday loan organizations and title loan lenders.
Crowdfunding is online fundraising to which friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers can donate. GoFundMe is an extremely popular platform you can use to set up crowdfunding for free. With this in place, anyone can contribute as little or as much as they can. Over time all of these donations can really make a difference in your medical bills. In fact, many GoFundMe campaigns have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars!