How to Pay Off Medical Bills


Health care costs continue to rise at a rate that alarms most consumers. Indeed, it doesn’t seem to matter what changes take place in state or federal government policy, health care prices tend to rise every year — just as they have for decades. Unfortunately, income has not kept up with rises in health care costs.

Medical bills are weighing on many Americans, and they are increasingly providing the last straw that results in bankruptcy. While there is no escaping medical bills in some cases, the good news is that there ways to get help paying your bills. Here are some tactics you can employ as you attempt to discharge your medical bills:

Save Up for Medical Bills

Your first option is to save up money in an account to help you pay costs that might not be covered by insurance. If your employer offers a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), it’s possible for you to get a tax deduction for saving up for medical expenses. You do have to use most of the money in the account by the end of the year or lose it, though (new rules allow for the option of rolling over $500 of the money). The money in your FSA can be used to help pay your medical bills.

Another option, if you have a high-deductible health care plan is to put it in a Health Savings Account (HSA). With the HSA, you get a tax deduction, and your money grows tax-free as long as you withdraw it for use with qualified health care costs. And the money rolls over year-to-year, so you don’t have to worry about using it all up.

Prepare ahead of time with savings, and you won’t find yourself in as much trouble when the medical bills come in.

Negotiate Your Medical Bills

Did you know that you can negotiate your medical bills? Go into the doctor’s office or the hospital ready to negotiate on cost. If you are willing to pay more up front, you might get a lower price, especially if you have a high deductible or inadequate coverage. Many providers will try to work with you to reduce the amount you owe, especially if you have some cash saved up that you can use to put toward a lump some.

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In some cases, health care providers can arrange to allow you to pay your bill over time with a payment plan. These plans often come with no interest, or very low rates of interest. Find out what options are available to you. In many cases, you can get a lower price, a cash discount, or a payment plan that works to your advantage.

Double Check Your Medical Bills

Sometimes, the high amount you owe on your medical bill is due to billing errors. Look over the codes on your invoice and compare them with the Explanation of Benefits you receive from your insurer. Ask what the codes mean, and make sure that the procedures described were actually performed. If you are staying at a hospital, ask for an itemized bill so you can see what everything cost. You might be surprised at some of the charges that slip in there. Look over your bill carefully to see where there might be room to recoup some of your costs.

Make a Plan

It’s important that you don’t make the mistake of ignoring your medical bills. They need to be addressed as soon as possible. If you can’t pay your bill, contact the provider and work out a plan. You can use ReadyForZero to help create your plan and track your progress as you work to pay down your medical bills. If you’re dealing with other types of debt at the same time, you may want to use our Credit Card Debt or Student Loan Debt resource centers to help you get on track to become completely debt free.

Image Credit David DeHoey

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  • Some of the charges on hospital bills are completely bogus and outrageous. People just don’t think to negotiate, but ask, and you shall receive.

    • Yes, it’s so important to know that you can question these charges. It may not help every time, but it could help a lot at the right moment.