Managing Medical Debt

If you take a Patient Active approach to coping with the cost of your cancer care, you’re likely to feel less alone, more in control and better able to improve the quality of your life. That said, in today’s health care system, even after you have found every single resource that can help with the cost of care, many people still find that they accrue medical debt. Cancer care is expensive, and insurance does not typically cover all the bills. 

If you are concerned that you will accrue medical debt, you have already made a good start by visiting this site. There are other ways you can be proactive as well. Pursuing the resources listed is one way. Another is to contact your creditors ahead of time and let them know what is going on. Some credit card and mortgage companies may temporarily change your payment requirements and/or interest rate. 

The strain of being in debt, especially if it’s the first time you’ve ever had substantial debt, can be tremendous. It can be tempting not to open bills out of fear of frustration or to toss them in a box never to be seen again. This will cause difficulties later down the road. It is best if you or someone you ask for help keeps up with the bills on at least a monthly or twice monthly basis. 

If bill collectors are calling or you are receiving notices that bills have been sent to collection, you may want to try taking some deep breaths before responding. With your support system, develop your plan of action. The website has excellent suggestions for managing medical debt and negotiating with creditors. And remember, if there is no money, then there is no money. No matter what a bill collector says, you have no reason to feel ashamed. 

Coping with the cost of care will look different for each individual. Sometimes declaring bankruptcy is the best option. Sometimes individuals can negotiate with creditors to either decrease the amount owed or lengthen the period of the loan. A good financial advisor can help you identify options if you find you are accruing substantial medical debt.

Side Note: In 2005, a study conducted by researchers at Harvard University found that half of the people who filed bankruptcy in 2001 cited medical causes as a primary reason for filing. A more recent study (2009) by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the American Cancer Society indicates that people receiving treatment for cancer, whether insured or uninsured, face significant financial challenges.

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