If you clicked on this article, you're not alone. About 1 in 5 Americans have medical debt they are struggling to pay. The good news is you have very good options you probably do not know about.
1. Apply for Hospital Financial Assistance: Many large hospitals are required by state and federal law to reduce the costs to patients for any out-of-pocket costs. This can often apply regardless of whether you have insurance. Call the hospital and ask how you apply for financial assistance. However, hospitals often do not properly calculate your income, often misinterpret the law or their own policy, and regularly do not offer people the full reduction they are legally entitled to. If you wish to apply for hospital financial assistance, or already have, we recommend you schedule a free consultation with an attorney at Navigate to make sure you are granted the full reduction.
2. Seek assistance from nonprofits: There are nonprofit organizations that exist solely to help people pay for medical debt. Full disclosure, I sit on the board of directors for the non-profit I'm about to recommend. A great non-profit that does this for people in the Pacific Northwest is Dollar For Portland.
3. Do not ignore it: Many people have an "out of site, out of mind" attitude towards debt. This can only get you so far. Hospitals routinely contract with collection firms and turn over accounts after a certain amount of time. If a collector calls you who is not an employee of the hospital they will likely file a lawsuit against you to collect the debt (and possibly soon!) This can hurt your credit, result in your bank account or wages being garnished, and cause you an immense amount of stress. It also can make it more difficult to take advantage of any hospital financial assistance program that may be available.
Medical debt feels unfair. You didn't ask for it, you weren't being irresponsible - it just happened to you. The good news is there are options. I've developed a unique practice in working with clients who have medical debt to find a solution that they can afford and feel good about. If you have medical debt and would like to schedule a free consultation you can email Eli Marchbanks, Navigate's consumer protection and medical debt lawyer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (360) 205-2256.
Every legal issue is very unique. Accordingly, the information in this blog is intended as general education material and not as legal advice. If you think you may have a legal issue you should consult an attorney.
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