Unpaid medical bills can be a huge problem. If you have an injury or illness and have to see a doctor, but you just can’t afford it, the medical bills can pile up. We’ve been there and we’ve seen firsthand how bad they can mess our credit up!
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How do unpaid medical bills affect your credit?
You might think the only way to get into credit trouble is with a hefty house payment or credit cards you let go, but that’s not the case. Unfortunately, unpaid medical bills can make your credit score go down too!
Medical bills can be high and can make it look like you have huge debts. If you have to have a procedure, you have a child or you simply have to visit the doctor a lot, you might end up with thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Your credit score affects your whole life.
Not only can your credit score make it hard for you to buy a house or a car but it can also affect every other area of your life. Did you know a lower credit score could affect your ability to rent a house and even obtain employment? There are so many problems that come from having a low credit score.
Medical bills that go to collections can cause credit score problems very quickly. As soon as your bill goes to collections, you will see negative remarks on your credit score. For this reason, it’s important to keep your bill out of collections.
Building credit up from having no score is not too hard. You can get loans, credit cards and make payments on time to build your score up quickly. Building it up from a low score is very difficult. If you have a lower score, you must first address the problems like unpaid medical bills. Then, you have to start from the bottom. It can take years and your credit will still not be perfect.
Recent laws might protect you.
Here’s the good news (we know you were waiting for it)! There are new laws and even FICO has new policies in place that protect you from being punished for unpaid medical bills in the same way people are punished for unpaid credit card bills! The newest FICO models don’t weigh medical debt as heavily as credit card and other debt. While this is a new way of scoring, it may take some time before the use of this scoring model is widespread.
Avoid getting the bills in the first place.
The easiest way to pay your medical bills is by making sure you have control of them in the first place. If you are making small payments on your bill, it will be harder for the medical company to send the bill to collections. Many hospitals and doctors will offer you a settlement amount for your bill. It’s often close to 90% savings for you. Even that might be too much. If it is, making a payment of $5 or $10 every month can help save you from having a bill that’s in collections!
If you qualify for medical assistance, you can use that to help pay your bills. In most cases, medical assistance may go back up to 6 months for the bills you have. Make sure you talk to your community action agency when you’re applying to let them know you have unpaid medical bills! While uncommon, other insurance companies might go back a few months too!
Also, you should always apply for the finanical aid offered by your hospital or medical practitioner. Most organizations have some form of financial assistance that can be applied for. All of these programs will reduce the amount you owe, and some may eliminate your debt completely! However, you have to apply for this financial aid right away.
Fix your credit from unpaid medical bills.
Credit counseling companies are a great way to help yourself if you have unpaid medical bills in collections. These companies will help you get back on your feet and are often run by attorneys who know how to talk to your creditors and to the credit bureaus! The biggest problem with these companies, though, is they are expensive! If you can afford it, they are worth it!
Many of the things these companies do, you can do for yourself. Things, like sending letters and challenging the authenticity of medical bills, will help remove them from your credit. You must be very careful when doing this because there are certain things you can say or do that would further validate the debts.
Some people have so many unpaid medical bills and so much debt piling up from an illness or injury that they think bankruptcy is their only option. While bankruptcy may help in some cases, you should try everything else first. Remember, a medical bill can only stay on your credit report for seven years, but a bankruptcy can stay on for 10. It may be worth it to just wait it out! You can learn more about bankruptcy and whether you should file it!