Do not let medical bills go to collections

The cost of health care in the U.S. has skyrocketed over the past decade. Experts predict that health care spending will reach $4.8 trillion by 2021, accounting for 20 percent of the U.S. economy. Many people do not have health insurance to offset some of the costs of medical care. About 49 million people in the U.S. did not have health insurance in 2011, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Even those who have insurance have seen their costs rise. The 2012 Millman Medical Index revealed that those with health insurance saw their costs increase by 7.2 percent from the previous year in 2012. It is easy to become overwhelmed by medical bills, but people can take some steps to prevent their bills from going to debt collectors.

Many struggling with medical debt

Medical debt is a problem with which many across the U.S. struggle, even for those with health insurance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 20 percent of the U.S. population, or over 54 million people, had difficulties paying medical bills. When people are unable to pay their bills, health care providers routinely sell debt to collections agencies. The Commonwealth Fund, a think tank located in New York, reported that about 41 million adults in the U.S. were contacted by debt collectors in 2012 because of medical debt.

Avoiding collections

People can take action to reduce the likelihood that their medical bills will go to collection agencies, even if they are not able to pay them all at once. The most important thing for people to remember is ignoring the bills will not make them go away, and health care providers are more likely to sell the debt to collectors if they have had no communication from patients.

One of the first things people should do when facing medical bills is check to see that the bills are accurate. According to the American Medical Association, health insurance companies have a 7.1 percent error rate in their billing, so people may be getting billed for things they are not responsible for paying.

After verifying the accuracy of the bills, patients may want to try to set up a payment plan with their health care providers to pay off the debt in manageable pieces over time.

Consider bankruptcy

In some cases, people simply have too much medical debt to be able to repay. Unexpected illnesses that require costly treatment can cause medical bills to pile up. In such instances, people often are unable to work, so they also incur other types of debt such as credit card debt just to meet basic needs. People may want to consider bankruptcy as an option for getting out from under such crushing debt and to help regain their financial footing.