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How to Negotiate Medical Debt

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Medical debt makes up the largest portion of consumer debt in collections, which can of course negatively affect your credit score. But most people don’t know is that in some cases medical bills can be negotiated.

Here are a few tips to help you successfully negotiate medical debt:

Check for Accuracy

When you receive your medical bill:

  • Check the dates of services
  • Look for overcharges and duplications
  • Look for charges for care or services you didn’t receive
  • Make sure charges weren’t added after treatment concluded

Erroneous billing practices and even fraud contribute to overpayments. Studies show that a large portion of consumers may be overpaying on medical debts.

If you find any errors on your bill, contact the billing staff immediately and inform them of the error so that it can be fixed promptly. After the adjustment has been made make sure you request to have an itemized statement forwarded to you. Despite the fact that you may receive a summary bill that lists the total amount owed, you’re entitled to an itemized statement.

If you think that you were wrongly charged, file an appeal to have the charges reassessed. If the findings are in your favor, you may be eligible for reimbursement if you have already made payments.

Keep Good Records

Make sure that you keep your bills and insurance paperwork organized.

Take down the names of representatives you speak to on the phone and be sure to get their name and ID number so you can follow up within two to three weeks of the initial call. Make sure you also do this when communicating with representatives from your insurance company. If it becomes a your word against theirs situation having this information will make your case stronger.

Negotiation 101

Negotiating medical debt can be an intimidating process but remain friendly and be honest about your hardship and the factors preventing you from paying the bill in full. If you feel as though things aren’t going smoothly or you aren’t being heard, don’t be afraid to ask for a supervisor or manager. Continue until you find someone who can help without being too threatening or harsh.

Repayment Options

  1. The first thing you should do is attempt to reduce the amount owed. Find out if they are willing to waive any unnecessary fees.
  2. Ask for a prompt pay discount. Hospital billing departments and providers are eager to collect and get charges of their books so start off with an aggressive offer when paying a lump sum, for example, suggesting to pay 30% of the bill to have the remainder written off. Even if your initial offer is turned down, the provider may counter with an offer that is feasible. The only disadvantage with these options is that it generally requires you to pay your bill in full within a certain time period. This could be difficult with larger amounts.
  1. If you don’t have the funds to pay in full, find out if your provider is willing to offer a payment plan. If they agree, depending on the plan offered by your provider, you will most likely be responsible for monthly payments of a certain amount with the possibility of accumulating additional fees and/or interest charges. Try to work out an interest free arrangement.
  1. If these attempts are unsuccessful consider hiring a medical billing advocate to stop the clock from ticking. This person’s job is to save patients money and work out a solution between them and the provider. The advocate understands the actual costs of procedures and is able to leverage competitor pricing and Medicare to lower bills overall.
  2. You could go the crowdfunding route, but don’t anticipate it to complete save you from your debt. Several people have found success covering medical bills by using sites such as GoFundMe to fundraise for their medical bills. Even if you don’t successfully raise enough money to cover all of your medical expenses, everything counts.

What Happens If You Aren’t Able To Negotiate and Your Medical Debt Goes to Collections

In most cases, once an account has been delinquent for several months the medical debt will be sold to a collection agency.

Allowing your medical debt to go into collections will most likely harm your credit score. The debt will appear on your credit report as unpaid and remain on your credit report for up to seven years even if you pay the bill in full after it was placed on your report. Some companies will accept a pay for delete offer. This is one of the only ways to have the debt removed from your credit report. A pay for delete occurs when a company agrees to stop reporting a negative item on your credit report in exchange for immediate payment of the debt.

Although the collection process can be intimidating, The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) outlines specific regulations that must be followed by medical debt collectors. If you believe a debt collector has violated the law, take action to report unfair practices within one year from the alleged violation however, keep in mind that the law does not apply to the original creditor.

It’s okay to trust your gut if you get a phone call about a debt in collections that you don’t think is yours. It’s within your rights to get a collection agency to verify that the debt is indeed yours before you proceed. Never divulge personal information over the phone, especially not until you get written verification that the debt belongs to you. Learn more about how to verify a debt in collections here.

Preventing Medical Debt

If you have insurance, make sure that you review the Summary of Benefits and Coverage for your plan. Familiarize yourself with your deductibles.

If you do not have insurance, look into signing up for health insurance through the health exchange. Health insurance is a costly expense, but medical expenses while uninsured are will land you in significant debt.

THE ONLINE GUIDE TO BECOMING DEBT FREE FOREVER

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Tonya Rapley |

Tonya Rapley is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Tonya at [email protected]

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Balance Transfer, Reviews

American Heritage FCU Preferred MasterCard Balance Transfer Review

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Updated 6/2/15

Credit card debt is a major financial concern for consumers. A 2014 MagnifyMoney survey found the average American family carried nearly $11,000 in credit card debt with an interest rate north of 15 percent. Fortunately, there can be a solution for digging out of debt faster.

When used properly a balance transfer card can be a great tool for reducing interest costs. These deals can be found from both banks and credit unions. American Heritage Federal Credit Union offers one of the most competitive balance transfer deals on the market with its Platinum Preferred MasterCard.

The Offer

The Platinum Preferred Mastercard® balance transfer offer comes with no balance transfer fees and a 1.99% introductory rate for the first 6 months, then 9.99% APR afterwards. American Heritage provides a credit limit range from $300 to $40,000 depending on credit worthiness.

If you’re not approved for the Platinum Preferred Mastercard® you might be offered one of the other two cards offered by American Heritage, the Platinum Classic MasterCard® (12.90% APR) or the Platinum Secured MasterCard® (15.90% APR). But neither of these would qualify as a decent balance transfer deal. Instead, you should look to apply for another balance transfer deal including ones with 0% interest and even ones offering 0% with no fee. Find our list of no fee balance transfer offers here.

The Platinum Preferred card is a rare “A” transparency score balance transfer option because it discloses fees upfront and uses very few traps to get you back into revolving debt while on your repayment journey.

How to Become Eligible

Credit unions are known for their commitment and ability to offer consumer (and wallet) friendly products. Some credit unions have strict requirements for membership but joining the American Heritage Federal Credit Union (American Heritage) is easy and detailed below. American Heritage subscribes to a “once a member, always a member” policy. Membership with the credit union is for life. If you change jobs, relocate, or retire, you still retain your membership, as long as your account remains active and in good standing.

Platinum Preferred Card Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • No annual fee
  • No balance transfer fee
  • Anyone on can join the credit union and the online application process is simple

Cons:

  • Doesn’t offer a 0% introductory APR option
  • You must be a member of the credit union and maintain a minimum balance of $15 in a share savings account to remain in good standing.
  • Does not offer 24 hour customer service

What do you need to qualify?

To apply for this you must be a credit union member in good standing. To be eligible for membership you must:

  • Be an employee of one of its partner companies. There are more than 800 companies, mostly located near Philadelphia.
  • Have a family member who is a member of the credit union, or
  • Indicate your support for Kids-N-Hope Foundation on the application form, with no donation required.

AmericanFCU applications

 Who Is It Best For?

This card is best for individuals who are looking to reduce their interest rates while paying off high interest debt. It offers rewards and a few additional perks such as $1 million in travelers insurance on purchases made entirely on the card but this is not a strong rewards card.

This card is also best for individuals with excellent credit.

The Fine Print Alerts

This is where it’s important to pay attention in order to get the more out of the card.

  • If you miss a minimum payment on this card you pay big time. According to its disclosure agreement, when your minimum monthly payment is late all balances, including those purchases, cash advances and balance transfers made during the introductory period, are subject to the non-introductory APR and $20 late fee.
  • Should you ever lose your card, the replacement card fee is up to $7.50 and if you need it in a hurry the rush card fee is $25.
  • Make sure to rollover your balance transfer within the first six billing cycles (we recommend just doing it in the first month).
  • The introductory APR for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances will only apply to transactions posted to your account during the first six billing cycles following the opening of your account. That means purchases or balance transfers must be made before the sixth billing cycle or they will be subject to the non-introductory APR rate of 9.99% variable. But you shouldn’t be using your balance transfer card for purchases anyway.
  • If you pay your credit card transfer balance off before the 6 months are over your introductory period will automatically conclude and the 9.99% variable APR will be implemented on any purchases.

Balance Transfer Card Alternatives?

You can search for a variety of other balance transfer options including ones with 0% interest and even ones offering 0% with no fee. Find our list of no fee balance transfer offers here.

If you’re still interested in considering other cards, which may have a longer duration but charge a fee, then explore our balance transfer marketplace here.

[Use this tool to calculate the difference with fees and interest.]

Overall an Excellent Option for Digging Out of Debt

While it the American Heritage Federal Credit Union Platinum Preferred card isn’t marketed for its balance transfer perks like its competitors, it’s definitely a card worth considering when used solely as a balance transfer card.

It doesn’t offer a 0% option, but its introductory period is longer than most other offers out there, so if you need more time to pay your debt off this might be a good card for you.

In order to get the most out of this offer, all balance transfers must be done before the sixth billing cycle. Also keep in mind that once if you pay the balance off entirely before the 18-month period is over you’re automatically subject to the 9.99% on all transactions going forward. But you also shouldn’t be carrying a balance again.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Avatar
Tonya Rapley |

Tonya Rapley is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Tonya at [email protected]