Help With Medical Bills When You Don’t Have Money

| 7 min read Financial Assistance

When you or a loved one faces an unexpected illness or injury, medical expenses can add up quickly. In fact, over 66% of all bankruptcies are due to medical issues in the US, according to CNBC. It can be tough to focus on treatment when you don’t have access to the right care or you’re trying to deal with enormous medical costs. Thankfully, this guide explores how to pay medical bills and stay out of debt.

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Startling facts about emergency care in the US

Even a short trip to the emergency room can set an individual back hundreds or even thousands of dollars and lead to medical bankruptcy. As hospitals continue charging more for emergency care, it’s understandable why many have come to worry about these visits.

These statistics illustrate just how expensive health care in the US can be:

  • From 2009 to 2016, the average cost of a visit to the ER increased a total of $722, according to the Health Care Cost Institute.
  • Emergency room visits can cost anywhere from $50 to $3,000, according to the Balance.
  • 1 in 4 Americans suffers from chronic health conditions that require ongoing care, such as heart disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases, according to the CDC.
  • 7 out of 10 patients polled in a recent survey were overcharged for services when they used an out-of-network emergency room service, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • Emergency rooms can charge a much higher amount for common drugstore items. For example, Neosporin could cost nearly $800, according to PBS.

Understanding options for medical care when you’re uninsured

Over 12% of adults who work lack health insurance, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund’s ACA Tracking Survey. It can be understandably distressing trying to figure out how to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses—but it is important to understand all of your options and to get financial assistance for medical bills as soon as possible.

Your first order of business is to check to see if your state has expanded Medicaid. If it hasn’t, call your state Medicaid office to find out if you’re still eligible for some kind of state health coverage. You might also consider using a patient advocacy service that may be able to help you understand how to pay medical bills without insurance. These services can also help you understand your expenses, negotiate the bills on your behalf, and offer assistance with medical bills for costs you can’t cover on your own.

Six tips to help you pay for medical bills 

It’s possible to get financial help with medical bills and stay out of debt, even with large medical expenses. The below six options can help you get rid of debt and put you on the path to financial relief.

1. Start by talking to your doctor

One of your rights as a patient is to discuss the financial aspects of your treatment. Bringing up finances and billing might actually encourage your doctor to suggest more affordable alternatives based on your budget and insurance coverage. Doctors and their assistants understand healthcare bureaucracy well and may be able to steer you toward helpful resources—including hospital or health group administrators who can connect you with different forms of financial aid. They might even have tips on how to deal with your insurance company. Every doctor’s office policy is different, so it never hurts to ask. 

2. Review all your bills for extra costs you shouldn’t pay

In general, it’s not uncommon for hospital bills to have errors. For this reason, it’s a good idea to make sure you aren’t paying for any services you didn’t receive. Some common mistakes include charging patients for a full day when they were discharged in the morning, charging patients for medications when they brought their own, and charging patients for supplies like gowns, gloves, and sheets, which should already be included in the daily room charge.

Before setting up a payment plan with your hospital or doctor’s office, double-check all charges. You may need to contact your provider directly to clear up any incorrect charges.

3. Negotiate your hospital bill 

Some hospitals do help with medical bills by allowing you to negotiate or request a payment plan that will make monthly bills more manageable. Don’t be shy—be honest with your hospital’s billing department about what you can and can’t afford to pay. It’s best to share your monthly income and other debts with them, as this will help paint a larger picture of your financial situation.

4. Search for charities that help pay medical bills

If you’re still unsure on how to get help with medical bills, there are nonprofit organizations devoted to helping people with specific medical conditions. Take a look at a list of health charities and nonprofits to see if any apply to you. These organizations can be especially helpful if you have a chronic condition that requires ongoing assistance.

5. Apply for government assistance programs

Government resources can be especially useful to assist with medical bills if you meet the eligibility requirements. Here are some places to start:

  • Call your state Medicare program to see if you qualify for state or federal help.
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides financial help with medical bills for low-income parents who don’t qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford private insurance coverage.
  • The Health Resources and Service Administration has a number of programs that offer affordable care to those struggling with medical expenses.

6. Use crowdfunding to pay for medical expenses

Crowdfunding has become a popular way for thousands of individuals and families to pay for expensive medical treatments when insurance coverage falls short or is nonexistent. There are many benefits of using an online fundraiser to raise money for medical bills. Here are a few:

  • An online fundraiser can provide you with the support of your friends, family, and community during a challenging time.
  • The process of setting up your fundraiser is simple and straightforward. You can begin raising money within a matter of minutes.
  • It’s simple to accept donations online and get paid quickly.
  • With medical fundraising, you can reduce your medical debt and make sure your expenses are covered.

If you need any help along your fundraising journey, be sure to look for a crowdfunding website that offers 24/7 customer support. Another key feature to look for in a crowdfunding site is a blog or help center where you can learn medical fundraising tips or a medical crowdfunding guide so you can make the most of your fundraiser.

Most importantly, you’ll want to choose a crowdfunding platform that offers free fundraising. GoFundMe’s 0% platform fee means you can keep more of the funds you raise and meet your fundraising goals faster.

Still don’t know how to pay medical bills? We want to help

Thousands of people turn to GoFundMe every day to raise the funds they need. Whether you need help paying medical bills right now or you’re anticipating expensive treatments in the future, GoFundMe can help ease that financial burden. Are you ready to start a new fundraiser to pay for medical bills? Please sign up to create your free fundraiser today.

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Written by pkauffman