How I Broke Free From Medical Debt

I may receive a commission if you sign up or make a purchase after clicking a link on this page. Read the full disclosure policy here

How to get out of medical debtToday we have a guest post from Matt Williams, blogger and unapologetic fighter of medical billing mistakes. He writes a blog called sickandbroke.com.

Nine years ago, I learned something about myself that I never knew, I am amazing at making kidney stones. I hear that William Shatner sells his kidney stones on eBay; unfortunately, I must pay to remove mine – with all my willpower and all my money. Whatever you have heard about kidney stones – it’s worse.

There I was sitting in an emergency room bed in horrible pain, and aside from feeling like death, all I could think about was the charges racking up on my bill. And then it continued – for five years. I had trips to the ER, radiology scans, medications, procedures and even surgery. At one point, I got a bill from the hospital for $43,000. I had recently lost my job. This was before the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and I was not eligible for Medicaid. I was uninsured and unemployed, and finding the next train to jump in front of seemed like the best option. I had a wife and a family and knew I had to continue. I was depressed for a long time and felt like I was chained to my medical debts.

I proceeded to do the worst thing you possibly can – I ignored my medical bills. I ignored them so long that I ended up in debt collection. So, I was uninsured, unemployed and now my credit was ruined. I was at the point when many people file bankruptcy, and while I truly feel medical bankruptcy is a necessary evil in many people’s situation, I was not prepared to do that. I did not want to give up. I broke free of my medical debt.

How to Get out of Medical Debt

Uninsured patient discount

Almost all my providers offered an uninsured patient discount. This is a discount offered that is like the agreements that hospitals and doctors have with health insurance companies. No one pays full price for health care, not the government, not the insurance companies, and neither should you.

Financial assistance

First, I applied for charity care, or financial assistance, to help reduce the cost of the bill. With the uninsured discount, it reduced it by 80%, but the remaining amount was still more than $10,000! The third-party physicians and medical providers did not offer the same option. For my prescriptions, I applied for the financial assistance and used the generic options that were often as little as $4.

Payment plans

I worked with the hospital to set up a payment plan after the discount. I tried to do the same with the physicians who practised at the hospital, which are separate bills entirely, and most were not willing to do a payment plan. Almost all of those were sent to collections. My wife was the only one working and the payment plan seemed impossible to keep up with so some of my hospital bills went into collections too.

Collections

You should avoid going into collections at all costs. It’s not the best option and it’s a nightmare. I panicked, I was depressed and I ignored some of my bills. Collection companies do not give up and it is incredibly stressful to have your credit ruined. When I was finally at a place that I could physically and emotionally address my medical debt collections, I wrote a letter to the debt collectors and negotiated a significantly reduced bill to settle my debts. I did this in writing and kept detailed notes of all my phone conversations. I also required that with the settlement, they agreed to remove the negative entry on my credit report.

Borrow money

To pay the settlement amount on my debts to creditors, I had to borrow money. This was not easy, but I could do it because I worked with my bank and leveraged the value I had on one of my vehicles. Your bank may not be an option, but you could also consider asking family and friends – even starting a crowdfunding account.

Make extra money

This probably is not the kind of hustle you are thinking of – I worked to earn extra money. After I became gainfully employed, I also tried to earn money on the side. I did some side jobs fixing computers and built websites. This helped me to pay my loan and bills. Once you are feeling better after an illness, think of what kind of skills you can use to help you make extra money. Anything from mowing lawns to using your technical skills to help others!

I’m happy to report that I’m gainfully employed, insured (thanks to Obamacare) and I paid off my medical debt. One of my happiest and most recent developments is that I purchased a new home – something that would not have been possible if I did address my medical debt. I broke free from my medical bills and I know you can too!

You can learn more about how to manage your medical bills with my FREE e-book, 7 Proven Ways to Manage Medical Bills. It can help you to prepare, organize, track and negotiate your medical costs. It also offers tips on how to set up payments, monitor and find more money to pay your bills.

Emma

Emma

Hi, I'm Emma. I set about gaining financial freedom back in 2012 when my son was born. I've been hustling to pay down debt, save money and build online and passive income streams ever since. You can find out more here.

3 thoughts on “How I Broke Free From Medical Debt”

  1. I’m from the US originally, and the completely messed up medical system is one of the big reasons I’ll never live there again. (Seriously, Emma, make sure you have travel insurance when you go there next year, otherwise you could end up bankrupt from a broken arm.) Our Medicare system isn’t the best, by a looooong stretch; but it’s so much better than the American system. (Cue people saying that “You pay a lot more in tax” – which is simply not true; or my personal favourite, “I’d rather pay for it myself and be free” – because of course you can’t possibly be free if you have state-sponsored medical! – in 3, 2, 1 . . . ) I’m glad you were able to get out of your medical debt, Matt, but what a truly absurd situation to be in in the first place. When you’re sick and in pain, worrying about the bill should be the last thing on your mind.

  2. The American health care system is absolutely terrible (replying to the above reader). I was hit with a few medical bills, even with health insurance, and was charged thousands of dollars. I went in to get my BM checked for bacteria from a trip abroad (Sorry if it’s TMI) and I was charged such a high bill! They made it sound so routine, but I was surprised with a huge bill a few months later. I fought it long and hard, and got it 100% covered.

  3. Although I was insured at the time, when I had my heart attack and a stent put in, the insurance at first refused to cover the bill and the hospital billed me over $100k. That nearly gave me a second heart attack right then and there. Eventually the insurance agreed to cover the hospital stay and procedure, but the ongoing bills for my healthcare and that of my wife who’s disabled is a huge chunk of our budget. I can certainly understand why so many people in this country file bankruptcy due to medical bills. Congrats to you Matt for fighting your way out of your medical debt and for passing on important information on how to deal with it.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.