As you grow older, you can expect more visits to the doctor for various ailments. That means rising medical bills. If you are on a fixed income, the payments can threaten your standard of living.
While you may feel helpless, you have several options for help with medical debts. You need to weigh the possibilities with great care to determine what works for you.
The safest alternatives
Many hospitals offer in-house financial help to reduce your health care debt. The “charity care” programs usually provide discounts based on your income.
In some cases, hospitals and doctors are willing to set up a monthly payment plan. The arrangement is open to negotiation, depending on how much you can afford to remit each month. The payments often carry little or no interest.
Going public is another option. Some seniors turn to crowdfunding websites for help. Also, nonprofit groups offer aid for certain conditions, such as cancer. Medicaid is an option for low-income seniors, so look into your eligibility.
Some seniors choose to declare bankruptcy, which can wipe out your medical bills. This strategy helps avoid debt lawsuits and can start the process of rebuilding bad credit.
Some riskier alternatives
Medical credit cards also can turn your bill into more affordable payments. Seniors, though, should be wary of interest rates and high late fees. Also, using a card may make you ineligible for other programs.
A tempting option is taking money out of your home equity or retirement savings. One problem: You are sacrificing long-term security in favor of a short-term solution. The moves also can be expensive because of tax laws.
Debt exposes you to the possibility of car possession, eviction and wage garnishment. Before you do something desperate, consider all your options.
Know your alternatives
You are not alone when it comes to medical debt. One poll found Americans borrowed about $88 billion to pay for health care in 2018.
You also have to deal with the mental and emotional burden. The key is tailoring a solution to your circumstances.