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.
Did you know you can reduce your medical bills by simply negotiating? Yes, you can! If you are unable to pay the full medical bill, you can simply ask the hospital to reduce the bill so that you can clear it off!
According to a recent survey, over 41% of Americans are in medical debt due to low-income and high medical expenses. But what if you are unable to pay your medical bills? Can you go to jail for not paying medical bills?
Many people ask this question as they have a fear of facing legal challenges from insurance companies. Well, to decode this question, here we have come up with the right answer along with some ways with which you can reduce your future medical bills to live life worry-free.
Can you go to jail for not paying medical bills?- Before cracking out on the answer to this question, we must know the consequences of not paying the medical bills timely. Here we have prepared a list of answers which will eventually give you the right answer to your questions.
Consequences of Not Paying the Medical Bills
When you have closed all the doors, debt collectors will keep on smashing the doors from the out. They will give you nightmares and you will eventually be ready to pay the pending bills as soon as possible. But what if you don’t have anything to pay? Will I have to go to jail?
You have to go through three different stages if you have not paid your medical bills and are unable to pay the pending bills due to a lack of money.
Stage 1: Medical Debt Collections
There are many active collection agencies whose work is to collect debt. Your hospital or the medical insurance company can sell out your debt to such collection agencies at a nominal cost.
When a medical debt collector visits you, you can negotiate with them and ask for a reduced-price settlement. If he agrees to your request, you can close this debt right away. If you are not able to pay anything, then you have to make visits to courts and all i.e. the next stage.
Stage 2: Facing Lawsuits
If you are unable to meet with the debt collector or can’t negotiate with him due to having any money, then the collection agency might pull you to court. They will begin preparations for legal action against you as you have not paid your medical bills to date.
They have every right to sue you for not paying your medical bills. If they are ready to do so, you have to face legal action and make frequent visits to the court.
The judge could order wage garnishment. Wage garnishment is a process where a sum from your paycheck will be deducted before it goes to your bank. The deducted sum will be paid directly to the debt collection agency as the judge has ordered so.
If wage garnishment is not suited, the debt collection agency can go for liens and levies, two more options to collect the pending medical bills from the defaulters.
A creditor can place a claim against your property. They will pursue liens against your property, such as your home or any other property that you own. This way, they can collect their pending bills.
A bank account levy is an order where a collector can deduct money from your bank account without your permission. Whenever your bank is credited with some money, the collector can withdraw it without your knowledge; that is how the agency works!
Stage 3: Jail
You can’t go to jail for not paying your medical bills. It is a kind of debt just like not paying your taxes on time. You don’t have to end up in jail. Instead, you can ask the court for other ways or some relief to complete the pending amount.
If you are jobless, the debt collection agency will request the judge appear in the debtor’s examination.
If you are ordered to appear by the judge in the debtor’s examination, you have to appear there. If you ignore his judgment, then the judge has the right to issue a warrant for your arrest.
Make sure you follow the orders of the judge if you are facing legal action by the debt collection agencies. You will be free from the debt as the judge will give you many options to do so.
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 you can lessen the debt burden in several ways.
Every method described below will require you to be proactive and persistent and effectively save significant 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 review the medical bill’s details and ask 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. You may be asked to provide tax returns and other financial statements in such cases.
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.
I am a dedicated healthcare researcher and an enthusiast specializing in medical grants, medical education and research. Through my articles, I aim to empower healthcare professionals and researchers with valuable insights and resources to navigate these critical aspects effectively.