Can You Go to Jail for Not Paying Medical Bills – Overview
In many ways, unpaid medical bills are like any other debt and have the same consequences. Pay your medical bills on time to avoid creating the same problems as any other unpaid debt. Though you may not go to jail for not paying medical bills, the consequences of unpaid medical bills may include the following:
1. Reminders and phone calls
2. Additional charges
3. Forwarding to a collection agency
4. Increasing letters and phone calls
5. Legal action (wage garnishing, etc.)
Many Americans today are burdened with expensive medical costs and wonder what happens if they fail to repay the mounting medical bills.
If you struggle to pay off medical debt for surgery, hospital stays or regular doctor’s visits, you could experience long-lasting financial damage for not paying them off. However, you can reduce the burden and maintain a good credit score in several ways.
How to Reduce Your Medical Bill?
It is not easy to repay mounting medical debts on your own, but there are several ways you can lessen the debt burden.
Every method described below will require you to be proactive and persistent and effectively save a significant amount of money on your unpaid medical bills.
Here are the ways to reduce your medical bill:
1 – Review Medical Bills
Never assume that all medical bills are accurate. Many medical bills contain errors, such as duplicate billing for the same service. You may find unreasonable charges with ambiguous titles difficult for the patient to understand.
Though you may receive similar bills from different service providers for past procedures, it helps to spend some time reviewing the details of the medical bill and asking questions about line-item charges that you need help to recognize or understand. This may help you to reduce a significant amount of money from your medical bills.
2 – Check the Bluebook Value
You may be unaware of this, but every medical procedure has a fixed Bluebook value, similar to a vehicle. These values are the pre-set amounts that healthcare providers and hospitals will accept as payment for a medical procedure, device, test, or any other relevant medical/healthcare service. However, this amount can vary too.
For instance, hospitals may charge different prices to different insurance companies, so a patient at one hospital may end up paying the normal amount while another patient at a different hospital may have to pay nearly double the amount for the same procedure.
This often results in uninsured patients incurring heavy medical debts. This only increases the unpaid medical bills even more. So make sure to check the cost of every item on the bill against its Bluebook value and get ready to make some phone calls.
3 – Negotiate the Medical Bill
If you can pay the medical bill after a visit to the doctor’s office, you can ask for a prompt pay discount. This can help you save a significant percentage of your total bill.
On the other hand, if you cannot pay on time, you can explain your situation to the doctor or hospital that you may require a discount or financial help to pay their medical bills. In such cases, you may be asked to provide tax returns and other financial statements.
So, negotiating your medical bill may take a noticeable portion of the debt off of your medical bill. Besides this, you may also get the option to pay off the medical debt with a low or no-interest payment plan.
Hospitals and doctor’s offices encourage this practice as sometimes writing off unpaid debt as a loss gets the organization several tax benefits, often outweighing the original debt amount.
4 – Use Your Home Equity
If you have put a portion, or total, medical debt onto credit cards which transformed a no-interest bill scenario into a high-interest debt, You can use the equity in your home to pay off medical bills.
5 – Consolidate the Medical Bill
Another option for managing high medical bills is to take a personal loan for debt consolidation. This allows you to manage a single monthly bill instead of numerous notices and bills from hospitals, doctors and collections agencies. Check the interest rate on online loans to ensure that it is within the interest rate charged by your original creditors.
Though you may not go to jail for not paying your medical bills, you will definitely experience financial distress. So, to avoid this burden, you can ask the doctor/hospital to give prompt-pay discounts or choose to consolidate all your debts into one for easier repayment.
Make sure to consult the lender about the interest rate before taking a personal loan to pay off mounting medical debts.