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Is medical debt negotiable? How can you pay it off?

Medical debt, like many other types, can be overwhelming and all-encompassing. It nearly always following unexpected injuries or illnesses, which means that you can't be prepared for the cost of the illness entirely. Even if you have health insurance and a savings, those support lines can easily be maxed out when you suffer a serious illness.

When you're approaching your medical debt, one of the first things you want to do is to verify that all charges are accurate and expected. Look for overcharges or duplicate charges. If there are services you don't recognize, ask the hospital or your doctor to tell you what they were.

Next, talk to the medical provider. Most medical bills are negotiable, so you can work to have them reduced. If they can't be reduced, you may still be able to get on a repayment plan that extends your payments over time, so you don't have to worry about making a lump-sum payment.

If you don't have health care coverage, you may find that your bill is large and that you have no middle man to negotiate with. Try talking to the billing department directly. Offer to pay lower insurance rates than the office normally charges to insured patients or negotiate for a better rate based on the cost of procedures in the area.

If your income is low, you might qualify for Medicaid. This is a federal and state program that supports those with low incomes by covering medical expenses. Sometimes, the program covers medical costs from up to three months prior to the application. If you need assistance with the forms, your hospital or attorney may be able to help you provide the correct documents for consideration.

Source: Debt.org, "Medical Debt and Collections," accessed Jan. 12, 2017

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