Millions Of Americans Have Medical Debt In Collections – What Can You Do To Avoid It?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on Americans’ ability to pay for health care, contributing to both rising medical costs and economic uncertainty. One of the results is that many households have had to either incur medical debts or forgo necessary medical treatment.

See: New Ways to Protect Yourself from Surprise Medical Bills
Find: Medical expenses you can deduct from your taxes

Almost a third of Americans say they have not sought treatment for a health problem in the past three months because of the cost, according to Gallup’s new “2021 Healthcare in America Report,” which polled more 6,600 American adults.

This percentage has tripled since March.

Even among the wealthiest households – those earning more than $ 120,000 a year – about a fifth of respondents did not seek care in the previous three months because of the costs, up from around 3% in March and 5. % in June. A fifth of respondents (21%) also say that they or a member of their household have seen a health problem worsen after postponing care because of the cost.

Credit Karma, a mainstream tech platform with more than 120 million members, reports that nearly 23 million of its members currently have $ 47.6 billion in medical debt in collection. This is actually an improvement from September, when $ 48.6 billion in medical debt was recorded – a possible sign that even more people are forgoing medical care to avoid expensive bills, according to the report. an email sent to GOBankingRates by a Credit Karma spokesperson.

So what can you do to save money on healthcare costs and keep your medical bills from going to collection?

One thing Credit Karma suggests is to take advantage of potential tax breaks that allow Americans with high medical expenses to take a deduction to lower their tax bill. For 2021 taxes filed in 2022, the IRS allows you to deduct unreimbursed eligible medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

All eligible medical expenses can be viewed online at IRS website. But examples of eligible unreimbursed medical expenses include preventative care, surgeries, visits to psychologists ‘and psychiatrists’ offices, payments for prescription drugs, and even travel and accommodation costs while traveling. for treatment.

See: How to tackle unscheduled medical debt repayment
Find: Healthcare Spending Mistakes to Avoid

In the meantime, here are some tips that Credit Karma offers to prevent your medical bills from going to collections:

  • Know what your health insurance will and will not cover. If you have health insurance, familiarize yourself with your plan so you know what it covers and what does not. This can help you avoid unforeseen expenses, like seeing an off-grid doctor. Even if you don’t have insurance, ask in advance how much you can expect to be billed, even if this is only an estimate.
  • Review and save your medical bills. This can help you identify potential errors. If you’ve had surgery or seen your doctor but never received a bill, contact your healthcare provider to make sure they have the correct address or contact details.
  • Try to negotiate your bill. If you don’t have insurance or if your insurance does not cover a particular procedure, it may be worth negotiating a lower cost or at least a payment agreement before undergoing treatment. Online resources such as Bluebook Health allows you to compare what you will be charged against the prices of other suppliers in your area
  • Ask for a payment plan. Ask the hospital or healthcare provider to offer you a payment plan so that you can pay your bills in a more manageable way.
  • Check your credit reports for any suspicious behavior. If you notice a bill for a doctor’s appointment or hospital visit that you never made, you can dispute the charges and have them removed from your credit reports.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held positions with Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. Her work has also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal, and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a BA in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting has been recognized by the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story “Saint Christopher” placed second in the Writer’s Digest 2019 short story competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, one anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His first novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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