How to Stop Medical Debt from Crippling Your Credit

For many consumers, medical debt is particularly challenging because it’s unavoidable. Your health may depend on a certain procedure or medication, despite the sky-high costs that you can’t afford.

Of course, if you avoid paying the bill, you only make the situation worse. Your medical provider will likely turn an overdue account over to a collections agency, which can lower your credit score—and a damaged credit score means you’ll have to pay more in interest for credit cards and loans.

Before you let your medical debt spiral out of control, here are some tactics to try:

Pay Your Bills on Time

If you have medical debt, you’ll probably start receiving requests for payment over time, followed by reminders, and then final notices. Ignoring these letters is easy when you’re strapped for cash—but don’t.

After the procedure, make paying off your debt a financial priority. Think of it like ripping off a band aid. It may sting in the short term but it’s less painful for you in the long run.

Double Check Your Bill

Before you pay up, confirm that the hospital billed you for the correct services. Medical billing can be complex, creating more room for an honest mistake. Contact your insurance company and double check that the procedure isn’t included in your coverage. You don’t want to risk a damaged credit score due to unnecessary debt.

Request a Payment Plan

After you receive your bill, assess whether or not you can pay it. If you review your finances and just can’t afford it right now, contact a billing manager in your doctor’s office as soon as possible.

Reportedly, medical bills are negotiable. If you can’t haggle on cost, propose a repayment plan with your care provider. Assure them that you intend to pay—just with smaller amounts over time.