3 Little-Known Steps to Take When You Get a Big Medical Bill

Credit Cards sitting on a medical bill.
DNY59/Getty Images

Hospitals are money pits.

A trip to the emergency room or any surgical procedure can leave you facing huge medical bills. Enormous, gigantic, massive medical bills.

When you get a bill for thousands and thousands of dollars, it’s practically enough to give you a coronary and land you back in the hospital.

Little-Known Strategies to Pay off Medical Debt

Millions of Americans have medical debt. We’ve got some advice you might not hear anywhere else.

Here are three little-known steps you should take to pay down those bills.

1. Let This Company Help You Pay off the Debt

When you think about how much overall debt you have, you might feel a little anxious. All those payments can be overwhelming when you start to juggle medical bills.

That’s where a company like Fiona can be helpful. It can help you find personalized lending options to refinance or consolidate your credit card debt to potentially save thousands dollars in interest.

Fiona will show you all the lenders willing to help you pay off your credit cards and eliminate the headache of paying bills by allowing you to make one payment each month.

You can borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) and compare interest rates, which start at 4.99%. The idea is to secure a loan at a lower interest rate, potentially helping you save thousands. Repayment plans range from 24 to 84 months.

Take, for example, Katherine, who faced $12,000 in credit-card debt. Holding her back? The 15.24% interest rate. By refinancing with a 5%-interest, seven-year personal loan, she saved $12,000 in interest.

If she’d kept on the same road, she would have paid something like $14,000 in interest alone over 25 years. Yikes.

So even if you’re simply curious about what’s out there, know that checking rates on Fiona won’t hurt your credit score — and can probably save you in interest.

2. Protect Your Credit From Bill Collectors

Are unpaid medical bills hurting your credit score? Your credit report will tell you.

Get your credit score and “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. This website breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how you might address it.

And don’t worry: If you can’t pay off your medical bill immediately, you’re not alone.

More than 43 million Americans have medical debt, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Not only that, but one in five Americans who have medical insurance have unpaid, past-due medical bills, according to a FINRA Investor Education Foundation study.

If you’re one of them, Credit Sesame can help you keep an eye on your credit. More than half of all collections that are listed on credit reports are associated with medical bills.

3. Negotiate Your Medical Bills

If you’re facing a staggering, scary number, you probably don’t have to pay as much as they’re asking. You can negotiate the price of treatment with your both your provider and your insurance company, and you can approach the negotiation from a number of angles.

If you simply state the total is too high for you to afford, you might be able to score a discount if you can pay a large chunk of the bill up front or in cash.

Even if your provider says no, your lowball starting move primes the negotiation for a lower endpoint. And with the ridiculous premiums charged, 10% to 20% off the bill isn’t much to the provider, even if it’s a sizeable chunk of your lifetime savings.

If you don’t have a lump of cash to hand over in exchange for a deduction, you can probably get on a payment plan with the hospital. Although doing so may not lower your total significantly (or at all), you’ll avoid a negative factor on your credit report and have a concrete, manageable plan for getting rid of your debt.

Mike Brassfield is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.