41% of Americans have medical debt. Here’s how to pay your money back

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It’s time to get rid of this debt for good.


the main points

  • Many Americans owe money for the medical bills they are responsible for paying.
  • If you’re in trouble for medical debt, there are steps you can take to get rid of it without ruining your money.

Americans used to take on some debt, whether in the form of a mortgage, car loan, or home equity loan. But these types of debt are usually voluntary — meaning that consumers choose to take on them to cover certain expenses.

One of the less voluntary types of debt is medical debt. Many people end up owing medical bills because they are sick or hurt and not have health insurance that covers their costs in full (or no health insurance at all). In fact, it is estimated that 41% of adults in the United States have some type of debt due to medical bills, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.

Unfortunately, medical debt can be a huge burden in the same way that an exorbitant mortgage or car loan can be. And while, fortunately, there are new safeguards in place to reduce the impact of medical debt on consumers’ credit scores, medical debt is still a problem nonetheless.

If you owe medical bills, you may be eager to get rid of that debt as quickly and painlessly as possible. Here are some steps you can take to achieve this.

1. Talk to your service providers about setting up a reasonable payment plan

Many medical providers realize that health care expenses can appear out of nowhere and leave patients unfairly burdened. If you are now sitting on a huge health care bill that you cannot pay, ask your provider to set up a payment plan that will make you make reasonable payments based on your income. Often, providers will work with patients who have left a large bill when their insurance doesn’t pick up the tab (or they don’t have insurance to start with).

2. Try to negotiate your bills

You may have had trouble paying a $15,000 hospital bill, and you know it will take years to pay off based on your income. If so, talk to a responsible person and see if this amount can be negotiated down – say, to $8,000. If you can demonstrate that it will really take a long time to cover your bill in full, the facilities you owe money for may negotiate something.

3. Consolidate your debt with a personal loan

A personal loan can be an affordable way to consolidate and pay off debts. With a personal loan, you borrow a lump sum that you pay back in installments at a fixed interest rate. You can use the personal loan proceeds for any purpose, and that includes paying off medical debts. Personal loans often come with competitive interest rates – more than other borrowing products. And if you have good credit at the time you apply for a personal loan, you are more likely to get a reasonable interest rate on the amount you borrow.

In many cases, medical debt is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean you should give in to letting it ruin your money. Instead, take these steps to make that debt more manageable while you work to pay it off.

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