If you live in the United States, exorbitantly expensive medical bills are a fact of life, not an extreme or unexpected circumstance. On average, even with healthcare insurance, patients in the United States pay thousands of dollars per visit to the emergency room. If you have multiple emergent situations line up one after the other, and your annual out-of-pocket deductible has not been met, you can wind up with a pile of medical bills.
Even if you live in a more ‘civilized’ nation with universal healthcare, medical expenses can become overwhelming in a hurry if you pay for private care. If your medical bills have made you sick with worry, you might consider applying for a loan for medical expenses. However, before you sign that dotted line, there are some things you need to know.
Why Won’t My Insurance Help Me?
To those outside the United States (and even those within it), you may think, “I have health insurance, which is supposed to cover expenses like this! Why isn’t my insurance covering the full cost or anything at all?”
The sad fact is, despite how helpful health insurance can be for covering prescription costs, it’s not a panacea. As with car insurance, if your deductibles are set high so you don’t have to pay ridiculous monthly premiums, then you’ll have a much greater out-of-pocket expense to contend with.
What’s worse? The insurance company can decide to deny your claim for reasons known only to their internal system. If their arbiters deem that whatever procedure you received was not “medically necessary”, you can count on getting denied assistance. To complicate things even more, the line for what the company considers a medical necessity shifts almost by the hour.
Your Credit Score Can Affect Your Medical Loan
In addition to fighting against the health insurance company for the care and coverage you paid for, you may also experience difficulties receiving the funds that you need to cover medical expenses even with a loan. All loans, whether for purchases or emergencies, operate based on your credit score.
This means that if your credit is poor, you can all but count on not receiving the amount of aid you need, if not getting denied outright. Or, even if you do receive the amount of money you need to cover your medical expenses, you’ll be paying high-interest rates on unfavorable terms.
Is Getting a Loan for Medical Expenses Worth the Cost?
With all this in mind, you might wonder if getting a loan for medical expenses is even worth the cost in time, money, and effort. Well, yes and no.
You see, getting medical loans can prevent you from fending off medical debt collectors every few weeks. It can also ensure that you get the care you need when you need it, rather than risk being denied due to your inability to pay for the service needed. It lets you spread an expense of thousands of dollars over several months instead of needing to have it all upfront.
However, as mentioned above, rates and terms become unfavorable if you have a bad credit score. Worse, you’re not so much paying off your debt as you are delaying and adding to it. This can take a heavy burden and make it worse.
What Other Options Do You Have?
So, if a loan for medical expenses isn’t really an option for you, what other options do you have to cover emergency medical expenses? Here are a few of the potential ways that you can pay down the burden of your medical debt.
If You Have a Credit Card With Room, Use That First
If you don’t think you can get a loan for medical expenses but have a credit card with some extra room on hand, consider using that first. While you may still encounter high-interest rates and limited access to funding, you know what you’re getting into from the start. You know the interest rate your credit card has, and what it may charge if you borrow money against it.
Talk With Your Insurance Provider
Another option available to you if you can’t get a medical loan is to talk with your insurance provider. Despite what you might think, the insurer’s word is not the final law on what you could pay. In fact, oftentimes, it’s the maximum amount of money they think they can squeeze out of you.
You can fight your insurance company about the bill they’ve sent you. If you’re positive that you should have coverage for a treatment or procedure and have been denied, do not hesitate to call them and keep going up the chain until you get someone who can do something for you.
Despite their months and years of training, healthcare insurance claims departments can make mistakes. If you think they’ve erred in their judgment, dispute it at every step.
Talk With Your Healthcare Provider
If you’re saddled with medical expenses you can’t afford, don’t hesitate to reach out to the medical provider. Many doctors and hospitals have discounts and payment plans that they can offer to those who struggle with paying their bills. You may also be eligible for income-based repayment, depending on the money you make and whether your procedure was medically necessary.
Even if you lack the eligibility for such things, the provider could cut your costs by up to fifty percent if you don’t have a health insurance policy.
Use Emergency Savings
This advice may seem more than a bit tone-deaf to those in an emergent situation. However, if you have any emergency savings, make sure you use those first.
Sadly, for the vast majority of Americans, this advice is like salt in the open wound of their financial situation. According to a CBS News survey, less than forty percent of American families could handle it if a $1000 emergency came up. They have no way to save up emergency funds, and thus, no savings to call upon in times of need.
Ask Family and Friends
If you’re fortunate enough to be on good terms with family and friends who have decent money, you might be able to appeal to them for help with your medical expenses. However, this avenue poses a considerable risk, as some close bonds can fray when large amounts of money enter the picture. (There’s a reason why common advice states never to loan money to your friends.)
In an ideal world, no one would ever have bills that would require medical loans to cover. Sadly, we do not live in an ideal world, and not everyone has access to good credit, friends, or family to help them out. So, when all else fails, consider crowdfunding to get your medical bills covered.
People are willing to help others out online. Social media abounds with stories of successful crowdfunding ventures to get someone’s medical expenses covered. However, these efforts are just as likely to fail without significant marketing and signal boosting.
How to Cut Down on Medical Expenses
Of course, as they say in the medical world, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. What can you do to help cut down on your medical expenses before they become overwhelming? Here are a few helpful hints:
Maintain Consistent Health Insurance Coverage
While we’ve spoken at length about the potential issues you might encounter even despite having insurance, it’s undeniable that having it is better than not having it. Several thousands of dollars are better than tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt.
By maintaining consistent health insurance coverage, you can potentially find better rates and premiums. Plus, you won’t ever have to worry about your bills falling through a coverage gap.
Use 24-Hour Hotlines
Many insurance companies partner with telehealth hotlines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, if you need to get some health advice but don’t want to pay for a doctor’s office visit, calling one of these hotlines is a good way to get the advice or help that you need.
Take What Preventative Healthcare Measures You Can
We get it, some healthcare emergencies can’t be avoided. However, if you struggle with chronic health conditions, you should do what you can to manage them on your own. This means returning to the old standbys of eating well, exercising, managing your stress, and getting enough sleep.
Doing this can keep your immune system and your body running the way it’s intended to.
Let’s Review the Facts About Medical Loans
Getting a loan for medical expenses shouldn’t be a necessity. However, in American society, sometimes, it’s needed to cover your expenses, keep you fed, clothed, and homed. Thankfully, if you need help covering your medical bills, there are many avenues out there, not just loans.
If you need further assistance in finding the best loan option to cover your medical expenses, why not check out our blog? We update each day with more helpful and informative articles like this one.