young person sitting on floor with dog looking at piles of scattered bills

If you are stressed out with medical bills, it’s time to develop a game plan for tackling your debt so you can eventually put it all behind you. No matter how much or how little medical debt you have, there are some steps you can follow to become proactive and get it paid off to avoid accumulating future debt.

Get Organized

Start by getting all your medical bills, invoices, insurance statements, and other paperwork organized. Avoid throwing any of these correspondences away and make sure all bills from the hospital are itemized. If they’re not, contact your hospital and request itemized versions so you can check them for errors. Believe it or not, about 99% of all medical bills contain incorrect charges. While reviewing your bills, check to ensure that your personal information is correct, that your insurance information is listed, and that you aren’t being charged for any services you didn’t receive.

Know Your Benefits

If you have medical insurance and use it to help pay for a medical service, you should receive an “explanation of benefits,” which will provide an overview of how much you were charged, how much your policy covered, and how much you have to pay out-of-pocket. Make sure to review this document carefully and ensure that it corresponds to the coverage you’re paying for. Don’t hesitate to call your insurance company if you have any questions or don’t understand your explanation of benefits.

Address Mistakes

Once you sit down and analyze your medical bills, it is not uncommon to find mistakes. If you think an error has been made, there are a few steps you need to follow to address it. For starters, contact the billing office at the hospital or medical office and explain the error to them; if it’s an obvious error, they should be able to fix it right away. In the meantime, understand that you’ll still be responsible for the bill, and they may have to refund you later on; you can’t refuse payment on a bill because of an error. Make sure to copy down names of people you speak to as well. By taking down contact names, you can potentially build a relationship and good faith with the bill collectors.

If You Can’t Pay. . .

The case may be that you simply cannot afford to pay your accumulated medical bills. Generally, the best thing you can do is to contact the billing department of each hospital or practitioner and try to work out a payment plan. By meeting with the billing office, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to negotiate down some of your debt or get on a reasonable payment plan that works with your budget. Doing nothing is the worst thing you can do.

Avoiding Future Problems

Finally, you can avoid future debt from medical bills by making sure you fully understand your health insurance benefits. If you are not comfortable with the level of coverage your current plan offers, it may be time to re-evaluate your needs.