With COVID-19 Raging, How to Manage Medical Debt
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the whole world hard. For those who have contracted the disease, the primary concern is treatment and recovery. Once you have surmounted that challenge, another awaits: medical debt. In Wisconsin, almost 20,000 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 (19,785 as of December 17, 2020 according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services) and over 4000 have died. That means that more Wisconsinites are facing massive medical debt than ever before. What can you do when you find yourself in a financial crisis because of your medical crisis? In this post, we look at some of your options.
What Not To Do
Before examining what you should do, here’s something you should NOT do: transfer your medical debt to credit card debt. When you pay your medical bills with your credit cards, you are shifting your debt obligations from an interest-free creditor to a high-interest creditor. Most consumer credit cards charge 18 – 24% interest while medical debt is almost always interest-free. So resist the urge to pay your medical bills with your credit cards unless you are absolutely certain that you are able to pay off the credit card before accruing the interest payments.
Medical Bill Itself
Many people never really look at the itemized medical bill that they receive. That’s understandable. It’s often long, complicated, and uses technical vocabulary, both medical terms and insurance jargon. However, carefully examining the medical bill is absolutely essential. Here is information from the American Academy of Family Physicians that can help with that https://familydoctor.org/understanding-your-medical-bills/. If you have questions or concerns about particular items, use the established process to dispute the charge. If you cannot resolve a disputed charge, you can turn to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and consumer Protection for assistance.
When are you certain the bill is correct, you can set up a payment plan with the hospital or medical provider. As long as the payment is reasonable, medical providers are usually happy to accommodate you. And you won’t be accumulating interest while you pay off your medical debt. The important thing here is to contact the medical provider right away and negotiate an agreement that you can actually maintain.
Medicaid and/or BadgerCare Plus
If you were uninsured when you went into the hospital, you can still manage to get Wisconsin Medicaid or BadgerCare Plus to cover your hospitalization costs. These programs are retroactive up to three months. That means that if you were eligible for Wisconsin Medicaid or BadgerCare Plus when you went into the hospital, you can apply for and receive that insurance and it will cover the time that you were there. However, if you became eligible for these programs subsequent to your hospitalization, your Medicaid or BadgerCare Plus coverage will not be retroactive.
Bankruptcy is a viable option when you are facing thousands of dollars of medical debt. The average cost for a Wisconsinite hospitalized with COVID is $14,573, and sustaining that level of debt, along with your usual obligations may not be feasible. Bankruptcy can completely clear medical debt. There are different options in bankruptcy, and if you are thinking about it at all, you should contact the experts at Burr Law. Chapter 7 bankruptcy completely eliminates unsecured debt; that includes medical debt and credit card debt. A professional bankruptcy attorney can make sure that you get the exemptions you’re allowed, so you keep your house and car. The whole thing takes between 3 and 6 months. Chapter 13 bankruptcy can also eliminate medical debt, though it’s a different process that lasts from 3 to 5 years.
Medical Debt Shouldn’t Be Another Crisis
When you’ve survived a medical emergency like COVID, you shouldn’t need to succumb to a financial emergency. Working with the experts at Burr Law can give you the information and options you need to make sure that you are making the right choices. When it comes to dealing with medical debt, contact Burr Law.