How to get rid of medical debt without damaging your credit

How to get rid of medical debt without damaging your credit

March 3, 2021

Medical debt is piling up for Americans – but how do you handle it without ruining your credit? (iStock)

No doubt about it, Americans are drowning in medical debt.

One recent study indicated that 137 million Americans were battling onerous medical debt - and that was just before the coronavirus pandemic rolled into the U.S. Another more recent study from Freedom Debt Relief noted the problem is only growing more severe, as 75% of these individuals say they have accumulated more medical debt since March 2020.

If you have medical debt and want to make sure it's not hurting your credit, Credible can help. To ensure you're staying up-to-date with your credit status, enroll in a credit monitoring service. Credible can help you get started.

How to best pay off medical debt

Tackling high medical debt isn’t easy, but it is doable. Financial experts advise that an eye for detail and a disciplined research campaign yields the best result. These strategies may work best.

Review EOBs

Some experts estimate that 80% of medical bills contain errors or inflated charges said Sean Fox, president of Freedom Debt Relief in San Mateo, Cal. If you want to deal with medical bills, make sure you're staying on top of what's actually in them. “Go back and review the bill in question from your health care insurer, known as an explanation of benefits (EOB),” Fox said. “If you see an issue or have a question, call the provider’s (or insurance company’s) billing department who can solve the problem.”

Contact providers 

Be upfront about your situation. “If you’re unable to work and make money to pay your bills (because of your medical state), contact providers’ billing offices and explain,” Fox added. “Ask about any options they can offer to you.”

Negotiate payments

Call your providers’ billing offices and ask about payment deferral or other plans. “They may be especially open to working with patients now, during the pandemic,” Fox said. “If you had to visit an out-of-network provider, or if you do not have medical insurance, ask for a cash-payer price. In certain situations, some providers may also charge the discounted Medicare or Medicaid fee."

Get a personal loan

Consider a consolidation loan that covers all your current debt. “The biggest positive impact here is that you end up with just one monthly payment rather than several,” said Matthew Alden, Debt Relief and Bankruptcy Attorney in Cleveland, Oh.

Explore your personal loan options by ​visiting Credible ​to compare rates with multiple lenders – all within minutes.

Improve your credit health

Once you’re on the path to paying off your medical debt, focus on repairing any damage to your credit health.

“One of the best ways to improve your credit score is to simply be consistent over time,” said Daniel Joseph, founder of CoupleWealth.com, a digital platform that helps couples achieve financial stability. “Consistently pay off your balance, avoid making late payments, and ask for credit line increases periodically. Credit scores are heavily influenced by time, so the longer you can consistently have good habits, the better your score will be.”

Multiple factors affect your credit scores, however, and paying your bills and credit accounts on time is typically the most significant factor. An unpaid medical bill can cause serious issues.

Not sure where you fit on the credit score spectrum? Then you should start using a credit monitoring service to track changes to your credit score. Credible can get you set up with a free service today.

“Also, maintain a low credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of debt you have on revolving credit accounts (such as credit cards and lines of credit) compared to your credit limits,” said Laura Adams, the host of the Money Girl podcast. “In general, a utilization ratio of 20 percent or less is best to maintain good credit or improve your scores.

You can also visit Credible.com and use its personal loan calculator to find the best personal loan rates to help pay down medical debt.

Problems tied to medical debt

Severe money troubles

According to Michael Broughton, co-founder of Get Perch, a credit building mobile app platform, often people have to go to great financial lengths to dig out of medical debt. “Often this financial hardship has led people to have to tap into their 401(k) accounts, personal savings, or even file for bankruptcy,” Broughton said.

Declining credit score issues

If medical debt is not taken care of in a timely fashion, the medical provider or hospital can turn it over to a collection agency who can then report it to the bureaus. “If this happens, the medical debt can negatively impact your credit score,” Broughton added. “However, hospitals or medical providers rarely ever report the debt directly to credit bureaus.”

In the event a medical debt does go to a collection agency, there is some relatively good news

“On the bright side, if it is taken to the collection agency, the three bureaus treat medical debt delinquencies less critically than other debts in that they offer some relief to medical debt holders,” Broughton said. Here’s what they offer:

  • 180-day grace period before showing the debt on your credit report.
  • Removal of the debt from your credit report once it is paid or resolved

Whether you currently have outstanding medical debt or just want to stay on top of your credit, Credible can help. From bad credit to fair credit to excellent credit, to improve your score you first need to know what it is. To see where you fit in, turn to a credit monitoring service. Credible's partners can help you find your credit score, history, alert you to potential fraud, and more.

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