Medical expenses have become a leading cause of personal bankruptcy in America. Even with health insurance, millions of people struggle daily to pay unexpected and costly medical bills. YouCaring is here to help you manage extreme financial stress and hardship resulting from an onslaught of costly medical expenses. We want to answer your questions about medical bankruptcy and offer a helping hand.
It’s easy to view the issue of medical bankruptcy in America as just another political dispute, a polarizing issue mired in confusing statistics that has people picking sides and drawing battle lines. But at YouCaring, we think it’s important to remember that behind this term lie the struggles of real people and that anyone can help.
Medical bankruptcy is more common than you may think. With a barrage of medical bills, people can find themselves suddenly buried in debt. The actual medical bill itself is only the beginning when it comes to medical expenses, since out-of-pocket payments often amount to significant sums. Paying these bills can mean agonizing over liquidating assets set aside for other purposes, such as college tuition, retirement, and home equity. When those resources are depleted, bankruptcy is the only remaining option.
Medical Bankruptcy: The Controversy
Tied up with medical insurance and the healthcare debate, medical bankruptcy has become a politically charged topic, fueling a number of heated arguments on both sides of the issue.
And studies over the past few years haven’t helped to clear it up, instead of turning the issue into a confusing numbers game with statistics and studies that frequently contradict themselves. A few examples:
- “Medical expenses account for 62 percent of bankruptcies in the United States.” – 2007 Harvard study
- “17 percent of bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to medical expenses.” – 2006 Kellogg School of Management study
- “Medical Bills Are the Biggest Cause of U.S. Bankruptcies” – 2013 NerdWallet Health study
- “56M Americans under age 65 will have trouble paying medical bills [in 2013]” – 2013 NerdWallet Health study
- “The percentage of people under age 65 in families having problems paying medical bills decreased from 21.7 percent in the first six months of 2011 to 20.3 percent in the first six months of 2012” – 2013 Center for Disease Control study
As you can see, the research surrounding medical bankruptcy will leave any normal person scratching her head and wondering what to believe. But the even bigger problem with the political polarization and contradicting statistics surrounding medical bankruptcy is that they distract people from the fact that there are still millions of Americans struggling to pay their medical bills every day.
Medical Bankruptcy Changes Your Life
Sliding into medical bankruptcy can begin with a life-threatening diagnosis or unexpected accident that lands you or a loved one in the hospital. As financial costs begin to build, you may start to feel helpless. Every day can bring more stress and physical discomfort, with a desire for some relief. Trying to make ends meet can seem insurmountable, as medical bills take priority over other daily expenses and disrupt your long-term budget.
Medical debt can drastically change the way you and your loved ones live. The Kaiser Foundation released a report that showed how people experience changes to their lifestyle when facing medical bankruptcy. These changes include cutting spending back on food, clothing, and household items; working more hours or getting a second job; drawing down on long-term savings accounts; borrowing money from friends or family; increasing credit card debt; and even take out a second mortgage on a home. And, approximately three out of four nonelderly adults reported foregoing necessary health care, because they were facing problems paying medical bills, according to Urban Institute’s report.
The No-Nonsense Truth About Medical Bankruptcy
Regardless of percentages and political leanings, some people (and you might know them) are going to have to use up all their savings to pay off their medical bills. Many will be unable to pay for basic necessities like rent, food, and heat. Some of them have children. A lot of them even have medical insurance.
These people are fighters. They’re battling cancer, major injuries, debilitating disease. Their bodies may not be on their side, but their spirits are relentlessly human. They hold on with a passion for life, even though life has dealt them a bad hand.
Despite their bravery, many of them are afraid. A body can only take so much. After hitting rock bottom, many will lose everything they have. To save money, some will cut corners with their treatments, not taking their prescription drugs as indicated, skipping doses, taking less medicine than prescribed or delaying a refill.
Some will return to work before they’re physically ready in an attempt to ease their family’s financial burden.
The simple fact that there are people going through these hardships in the United States overshadows any statistic and is more important than any political argument.
Medical Insurance Is Not a Buffer for Bankruptcy
Even with health insurance, people can face an avalanche of financial trouble caused by out-of- pocket expenses – which health plans do not cover – and expensive monthly premiums. In 2015, the Kaiser Foundation released a study indicating that employees are paying 83 percent more in premiums than they were in 2005, a growth rate unmatched by their salaries. This has lead to a large number of underinsured people, who struggle with similar financial issues that imperil the uninsured.
Tips to Avoid Medical Bankruptcy
1. Don’t Ignore Your Bills
You may be overwhelmed by the incoming medical bills, but don’t throw them under the rug. It’s important to notify hospitals, health providers and insurers if you think a payment might be late or if you’d like to set up a payment plan. Paying a portion of your bill, even if it’s a small amount, is still better than making no payment at all. If you do not have the funds available to make your payments on time, ask about financial assistance programs that may be available to you.
2. Pay Attention to Your Bills
It’s important to always ask for an itemized statement to look for billing errors. These are extremely common and could end up costing you thousands if you don’t pay attention to every detail. Make sure that any payments from your insurance company have been applied to your bill. If you have questions about your bills, don’t be afraid to call your medical provider and ask.
3. Don’t Use Credit Cards
Avoid using credit cards to pay for your medical expenses due to high fees and interest rates. If you’re admitted to the hospital and your only form of payment is a credit card, don’t use it. The hospital cannot deny you medical treatment, it’s illegal to do so. And you can work out an alternative form of payment with the hospital or your healthcare provider, rather that maxing out your credit cards and spiraling further into debt.
4. Negotiate a Lower Rate
This may seem like a daunting task, but it’s certainly one that’s well worth trying. Call the billing office for your health provider and ask if they’d accept a lower rate for your care. They may not return your calls right away. And you may hear “no” a few times. So try calling back again or ask to talk to a supervisor instead. If your negotiation is successful, it’s important that you stick to the plan. Don’t falter on payments or you may be stuck with the full amount again.
5. Crowdfund to Pay Your Medical Bills
Crowdfunding has proven to be a very effective way to raise funds quickly from family, friends or even strangers that want to show their support. Creating an online fundraiser gives you an outlet to tell your story to the world, easily share your campaign via social media networks, raise the needed funds to ease your stress, and ultimately help you from falling into medical debt.
How To Help Fight Medical Bankruptcy
Contrary to what many believe, human nature has always been collaborative, and evolution has favored humans who show kindness and help each other.
It follows that our generation is made up of the kindest people who have ever walked the planet. And today, it’s easier than ever before to express that kindness thanks to the state-of-the-art technology we have at our fingertips.
Crowdfunding has already changed lives, speaking volumes to the generosity people show towards others. At YouCaring, we’ve seen millions raised to help people pay off medical expenses.
But aside from streamlining donation collection, online fundraising has helped to create a community of support for people combatting physical and mental hardships. It’s a place to share thoughts, kind words, and encouragement, for people to come together.
And that kind of human kindness will never make it into a statistic.
Crowdfunding Your Medical Expenses
Crowdfunding enables anyone to financially capitalize on the interconnectivity of the Internet. With the surge of people facing unaffordable medical bills – whether they have medical insurance or not – crowdfunding for medical expenses has become popular and highly successful. You can reach out to potential donors via your social networks to seek funds for meaningful causes. If you or a loved one is in need of help to alleviate the financial burden caused by medical bills, you can create a free fundraiser now and start raising money today.