When it comes to healthcare expenses, medical bills can be one of the most significant and unexpected costs. They can also be incredibly confusing and overwhelming, and with so many costs and charges, it's easy to feel lost and unsure of what to do next.

We know, firsthand, that it is possible to make the process more manageable and less stressful. Step by step, we'll provide you with tips and strategies for paying and managing your medical bills—no matter how big.

You've been slapped with a medical bill...now what?
Regardless of your bill size or personal financial situation, these are some best practices we recommend for anyone paying a medical bill. 

1) Review your bills thoroughly
Before paying your medical bills, it's essential to review them carefully. Check the itemized charges and make sure you understand what each one means, so that you can ensure they’re aligned with the services rendered. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider's billing department to get clarification.

At Peachy, we always recommend starting the process by requesting an itemized bill so you can get an accurate picture of what you’re being charged for. To make this part as easy as possible, we offer a totally free, personalized, Itemized Bill Request template.

2) Negotiate your bills
Many healthcare providers are willing to negotiate the cost of medical services. Before paying, ask if there's any room for negotiation or if they offer any discounts or payment plans. Don't be afraid to ask – the worst they can say is no. We always recommend doing as much of this in writing as possible.

3) Check your budget and emergency funds
Make sure you have a good understanding of your financial situation before paying your medical bills. Check your budget and emergency funds to ensure you can cover the cost of your bills without sacrificing your other financial obligations.

Most providers offer some sort of need-based financial assistance (which are often under-utilized) so if you’re worried that these bills could put you in a tough spot financially, reach out to learn more about your provider's policy.

4) Set up payment plans
If you're unable to pay your medical bills in full, ask about payment plans. Many healthcare providers offer payment plans that allow you to spread out your payments over time, which can make it easier to manage your expenses.

5) Look for financial assistance programs
There are many programs available that can help you pay for medical expenses. Check with your healthcare provider to see if they offer any financial assistance programs, or look for resources in your community that can help.

6) Keep your records organized
Keep all your medical bills and receipts organized in a safe and accessible place. This can make it easier to review your bills and ensure that you're not overcharged or double-billed.

Do medical bills affect your credit score/show up on credit reports?

For a long time, there was a popular myth that medical bills wouldn’t be reported to credit bureaus. Fact: This was never entirely true and has left countless people in the position of dealing with medical bills in collections that have negatively impacted their credit scores. 

More recently, viral videos have floated around declaring that if a doctor sends a bill to debt collectors, it is a HIPAA violation. Unfortunately, this is also (typically) not true. A covered entity (e.g. a physician practice or hospital) may transfer protected health information to a collection agency to collect on outstanding medical bills without the patient in question authorizing the transfer. It is a permitted disclosure pursuant to 45 CFR 164.506.

There is still hope, though. Over the last year, some protections have been put in place to help people with medical debt prevent it from impacting their credit scores. Here’s what you should know: 

  • As of July 2022, consumers should have all paid medical debt erased from their credit reports. 
  • Unpaid medical debt will now appear on credit reports after one year—previously this was just six months.
  • Starting in the first half of 2023, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports will no longer include medical debt in collections under $500. 

So what happens if bills aren't paid or are ignored? 

We do not recommend just ignoring your medical bills. While things are changing in favor of consumer protection, medical bills are still being reported to credit bureaus once they are sent to collections. We have also seen a rise in providers suing patients for nonpayment. 

Medical bills can be a significant financial burden, but with these tips, you can reduce your expenses and prevent them from affecting your credit. Start by requesting your itemized bills. Be careful when using credit cards. Dispute incorrect bills, negotiate the cost of medical services, look for financial assistance programs, and avoid medical debt consolidation companies. You can take control of your medical expenses and protect your financial health. And you don’t have to do it alone. At Peachy, we are free for patients, forever. You send us your medical bill, we fight on your behalf. Click here to create your free account, and get started today!