During the past couple of years, thousands of Americans have found themselves faced with heaps of medical debt due to health bills not covered by insurance.
According to data collected by Gallup, 45 percent of adults in the United States are concerned that a major health event could lead to bankruptcy — and for many, it has. According to the same study, Americans collectively borrowed a staggering $88 billion to cover their healthcare costs last year.
For someone who is figuratively drowning in medical debt, you may feel that declaring bankruptcy is your only option. Prior to making a drastic decision like this, you should know that there are other steps to take that will get you out of this financial downward spiral. Rather than destroying your credit rating and all you have worked for by going bankrupt, the following options may help:
Look Into Selling Your Life Insurance
It is common for people to purchase life insurance with the intention that the policy will help protect their loved ones financially when the policy owner passes away. But as people with high medical debt have found out first-hand, life circumstances can change drastically, and their insurance policy needs are no longer what they used to be. To help alleviate the financial strain of mounting medical debt, you might consider selling your life insurance policy. For example, some companies purchase existing policies from life insurance policy owners, which gives policy owners access to immediate cash to help pay down medical bills.
Have an Honest Conversation with Medical Bill Collectors
For people who are getting phone calls from collection agencies wondering when they are going to pay their medical bills, they may be tempted to block the calls. Instead of declaring bankruptcy and thus eliminating those distressing calls, try speaking with the collectors who are trying to resolve the debt. While many believe that medical bills are not negotiable, this is often not the case, and it definitely is worth the time and effort to speak with them, explain the situation, talk about a manageable amount to pay and go from there.
Instead of ignoring the calls and bills, consider answering the phone, opening the mail and making an appointment to speak with everyone who is associated with the debt—be it a collection agency, the billing department at the hospital, the insurance company and even the oncologist’s office. In many cases, people are pleasantly surprised to learn that they can cut the amount that they owe, and/or they can work out a payment plan to get the bills paid off over time.
Sell, Scrimp and Save
While many people like the convenience of having an extra vehicle, as well as luxuries like owning a state-of-the-art TV and maybe some expensive jewelry, they would probably love the idea of being debt-free more. To avoid going bankrupt, consider selling off as many items as you practically can either on eBay, Craigslist or through a garage sale. It may feel a bit odd watching “Game of Thrones” on an old bulky TV you had in the guest room, but watching your medical bills go down by a significant amount will make it all worthwhile. In addition to selling whatever you can, look for ways to scrimp and save money—for instance, cancelling a gym membership, opting for a cheaper cell phone plan and eating out only rarely.
Bankruptcy is Definitely Not the Only Answer
Dealing with huge amounts of medical debt is certainly common, but declaring bankruptcy is not inevitable, nor is it the only solution. By taking tangible and effective steps to whittle down their bills, people can see the light at the end of the debt tunnel while avoiding the drastic step of going bankrupt.