Struggling to pay your medical bills? You’re not alone.
Being unable to pay your medical bills is not a position that anyone would ever wish to be in. Unpaid medical bills can accumulate for many reasons. Individuals can find it difficult to pay basic household expenses, credit card debt or even adjust to the loss of primary income for the family.
Medical debt doesn’t happen over night, but keeping a watchful eye on your financials and looking for help with medical bills in advance can help your family recover from any medical debt without resorting to medical bankruptcy.
For those who are looking for help with medical bills, you are not alone. In the United States over 56 million Americans have medical debt and are unable to pay their medical bills. These Americans come from across different states, are under the age of 65 and millions of these individuals have year-long health insurance.
According to NerdWallet’s 2013 study, the concept of medical debt is an all time high in the US. Sadly, the solution for 25 million American adults today who need help with medical bills is to forego receiving treatment in order to reduce the medical debt. This can be detrimental to the health and well-being of people who really need medical care.
Thankfully, there are several options available for individuals who need help with their medical expenses. These include programs, services and various ways to help yourself get out of medical debt. Below are the top 3 options to get help with medical bills that are commonly used by Americans with medical debt. It is important to note that each of the following options has it’s own benefits and restrictions:
1. Getting help with medical bills from state human and social service agencies
|Free assistance by law: Non-profit hospitals and non tax paying organizations are obligated to provide help with medical bills under the Affordable Care Act.||Eligibility Restrictions: Programs have requirements requirements in order to eligible for benefits and assistance. You can be restricted by your age, gender, illness and even the income you earn per year.|
|Limited Resources: Assistance can be slow and time-consuming. This means, a lot of forms, regulations and processes that are required to take place before receiving financial assistance.|
Any state human and social service agency will be able to provide a full list of resources and programs that can assist you. Depending on what you are eligible for, you can find that agencies are a helpful start to guide you in the right direction when seeking help with medical bills.
If you are just starting to research how to get help with medical bills, getting in contact with a government social service agency can be a great way to learn more about your options.
Each agency will have connections and information on available state benefits and aid to help individuals and families with paying their medical bills. Some of these options will help void any overdue medical bills you might have, while others can provide assistance with setting up a repayment plan for future medical bills.
There are certain requirements and forms that will need to be filled out in order to check your eligibility to each of the available programs.
Get Rid Of Your Current Medical Debt
One example of such program that you may be referred to is called Medicaid. Medicaid is a government enforced program that provides healthcare for individuals of all ages who are unable to afford or currently have valid health insurance. This is a suitable program for individuals who require assistance on paying out of pocket costs related to medical treatment.
In addition, charity care programs created by the state law, outlines that every hospital must be able to provide free medical care or provide individuals medical treatment at a reduced cost. This is beneficial for individuals who would like help with current medical bills. However, for individuals with ongoing medical bills, it can mean a short-term solution to the main problem.
Charity care only applies to individuals who do not have health insurance and are from low-income households.
2. Non-profit assistance to help with medical bills
|Many Choices: There are many non-profit organizations available for assistance both local and national.||Limited Resources: Generally non-profits provide assistance through a first come, first serve basis. As a result, you may find the process dealing with non-profits slow.|
|Lack of Control: The type of help with medical bills you will receive is governed by the non-profit's policy and regulations. For example, you may receive accommodation services but not necessarily receive money to pay your medical bills.|
|Eligibility Restrictions: All non-profits will have certain eligibility requirements before receiving any assistance such as age, gender, illness and even the income you earn per year.|
There are also non-profit assistance services that are available for individuals struggling to pay their medical bills. Both national and local charities can offer great assistance for individuals and their family in one form or another
For example, Shepherd’s Hope, a charity based in Orlando Florida offers medical assistance for individuals who are uninsured or without health insurance. This is a suitable option for individuals who are unable to pay their medical bills but still require medical treatment. Patients are treated for free at no cost to the patient. To be eligible, patients must prove they come from low-income households and require only non-emergency medical care.
Working Around Scarce Resources
One major limitation in receiving help from charity care programs and non-profit services is the scarce resources each charity might have. Due to limited funding, time and resources, charities can only help a certain amount of people each year. Most charities are entirely run without funding and only have a small number of volunteers who work part-time.
As a result, individuals who require help with medical bills immediately, can find working with non-profits a slow and long process. For this reason, most charities do not serve individuals in need of emergency medical treatment. Getting assistance can take weeks to months if there is a first come first serve priority and a large number of individuals are also requiring help from the same charity or organization.
The cost of contacting the non-profit and the transport costs will also be out of pocket, which can easily deter individuals in real need.
Do I Fit Into Their Requirements?
As a result of limited resources, non-profit organizations can also limit the type of people they are able to help. This makes sure that who they help fits and aligns well with their overall mission and goals of the organization.
For example, Make-A-Wish foundation’s mission is to help children with terminal illnesses. Children who do not fit into this category, are unable to receive benefits or support from this charity.
Similarly, other charities are targeted for specific illnesses, disabilities and diseases. There can also be requirements of age, gender and the socioeconomic background you come from.
Helping With Medical Bills In Other Ways
Often charities are unable to pay for your medical bills directly. Being a non-profit this is illegal to do in the United States. Instead, charities and organizations can offer other services like medical treatment or providing accommodation while getting treated in a hospital. Although these benefits can be useful in alleviating medical debt, being able to pay off the medical bills can still be a major problem. Therefore, this may not be a suitable option for individuals who want to get out of their medical debt.
3. Help with medical bills using free fundraising site
|Greater Control: You can determine how best to use the funds raised, without any limitations and conditions attached to it.||Relies on your networks: Fundraising can often means you need to take time to reach out to family and friends. You might this option difficult if you do not have social network accounts.|
|Emotional Support: When fundraising, you will feel greater sense of support from those you love and care about. This can help you and your family in the medical emergency.|
|Easy to manage with secure payments directly to you: Free fundraising sites like PeoplePledge provide a management system that allows you to keep track of donations and funds are sent directly to your chosen bank account.|
|Free: There are no cost to you to start and run a fundraiser. Therefore, there is no risk of trying.|
Going through an illness is an emotional experience. Venting out and seeking support from family members and friends is a natural progression when experiencing medical debt.
In fact, the Center for Disease Control study found in 2012 that one in three people knew of someone struggling to pay their medical bills within their own family.
When family, friends and communities know the financial and emotional pain you and your family are experiencing, they would naturally want to get involved and help the best way possible.
Fundraising is a great option not only for supporters to be able to give support, but also helps families get financial aid assistance for their medical treatment. There are two types of medical fundraising available.
Types of Fundraising Methods:
The first is fundraising using events, raffles, auctions and other social gatherings, while the second is online fundraising via a medical fundraising website. One of the main restrictions with offline fundraisers is the time, cost and limitations it can have in achieving your fundraising goal. Not all your friends and family will be able to attend and event that is set at a certain time, in a certain location. This means you are limiting how many people will eventually be able to donate. As a result, it can be difficult to determine how much money and time to spend on preparing an event, making offline events somewhat risky.
Another factor to consider is that offline fundraising can be difficult to give track and update who donated. Being about to give recognition to those who donated or having a system to ensure that all donations are kept safe can be tricky.
Online fundraising for medical bills is easy to setup and does not have geographical or time restrictions. This means, anyone can donate from around the world at any given time.
Being online also benefits you as the fundraiser. You will be able to receive notifications, tips and support in how to ensure you reach your financial goal in order to cover your medical bill.
Why Fundraise For Medical Bills?
Getting help with medical bills from family, friends and social networks can also be a profound and empowering way to solving the lack of finances for medical treatment. Instead of waiting on government programs or charities, you can take control of the situation and do something that can have a huge impact on you and your loved one’s life.
One of the major benefits of fundraising for medical expenses is the ability to choose how the money is used. As long as the funds are used to benefit the patient for their health and well-being, a family can choose how the funds raised will be used accordingly.
Fundraising can also be free. Majority of websites that allow individuals to create a fundraising page, will often charge a admin fee. However, if you do the research, you will find a free fundraising website that offers the same, if not better service.
A free fundraising site can offer families the opportunity to raise funds for the cost of their loved one’s medical bills, without putting more financial strain in setting up the fundraiser. This means, there are not costs to you to setup and run a fundraiser.
PeoplePledge for example, is a free fundraising site that allows individuals in the United States to create a fundraising page to help pay for medical bills. Individuals and their family can setup a page online and start receiving donations from supporters on the same day. The simple to use format means that anyone can start fundraising. The best thing about this is that it is completely free to use.
1) Help with Medical Bills: http://answers.usa.gov/system/templates/selfservice/USAGov/#!portal/1012/article/2712/Help-with-Medical-Bills
2) Financial Burden of Medical Care: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, January-June 2011: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/financial_burden_of_medical_care_032012.pdf
3) NerdWallet Health finds Medical Bankruptcy accounts for majority of personal bankruptcies: http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/health/2014/03/26/medical-bankruptcy/
4) Medication costs fuel painful medical debt, bankruptcies: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101686432
5) Find help paying medical bills or free health care: http://www.needhelppayingbills.com/html/help_with_medical_bills.html
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