Some Americans Fail to Buy Christmas Presents to Pay for Health Care, Survey Finds

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Consumers have avoided spending money on food, travel and even vacation gifts due to health care costs, according to a survey by HealthCareInsider. (iStock)

The cost of medical care can keep you from reaching financial goals throughout the year. And during the holiday season, unpaid medical debts can cast a shadow over what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year.

About 1 in 10 Americans (11%) forgot to buy Christmas presents to pay for health care, according to a new HealthCareInsider survey. Patients also failed to purchase food (17%), travel (16%), and make other major purchases (14%) in order to pay their medical bills.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to keep your pre-vacation health care costs under control. Read on to learn more about managing medical expenses, from negotiating hospital bills to consolidating medical debts. See your estimated interest rate for a debt consolidation loan without impacting your credit score on Credible.

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How to reduce health care costs

Unpaid medical bills can strain your budget and make it difficult to buy basic necessities like food and shelter. But health care costs can also prevent patients from making discretionary purchases, including holiday gifts. Here are some ways to lower your healthcare costs, so you can have the freedom to spend your money however you want:

Learn more about your debt management options in the sections below.

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Do your research to plan ahead

With the high cost of health insurance, it is easy to assume that the necessary medical procedures are covered. But making assumptions about the cost of health care can leave you stuck with an unexpected expense.

More than half (51%) of survey respondents said they had received a surprise medical bill in the past year. Of those who did, 33% said the bill was over $ 500. Here are some ways to prepare for medical bills in advance:

  • Find out about prices before consenting to treatment. Common medical procedures can vary widely. A recent New York Times report found that an MRI varied by more than $ 2,000 from one provider to another. You may be able to find a doctor who offers the same service for less.
  • Use a healthcare pricing tool to estimate costs. Some major health insurers offer price estimates on their websites. You can also use a third party tool like Bluebook Health to make sure you’ve been charged a fair price.
  • Get closer to your mutual. They may have medical billing advocates on staff to help you find low cost care or network providers. You can also request a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) to learn more about your health insurance plan.

However, any patient who has received emergency medical attention knows that it is not always possible to predict medical costs. If so, think about your options for negotiating hospital bills or consolidating medical debt with a loan. You can find out more about debt consolidation loans by contacting a knowledgeable expert at Credible.

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Negotiate your medical bills

It may be possible to reduce or eliminate your medical bills by contacting the hospital billing department. Health care providers are known to offer discounts to patients who prepay a lump sum.

But before getting in touch with the supplier, check medical billing errors. Check to see if you’ve been billed for a service that was supposed to be covered by your insurance policy. Other common mistakes include double billing or incorrect billing codes.

You should also check if you are eligible for any financial aid programs based on your income. Federal law requires nonprofit hospitals to offer financial assistance to low-income patients. Yet nearly half (45%) of these providers routinely bill patients who qualify for a charitable care program, according to Kaiser Santé news.

Specific regulations vary from state to state, so familiarize yourself with the laws in your area to see if you qualify for financial assistance like discounted care or an interest-free payment plan.

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Consolidate medical debt into a loan

If you’ve exhausted all of your other options and just need a structured debt repayment plan for your health care costs, consider borrowing a debt consolidation loan. This unsecured personal loan allows you to repay your debts in fixed monthly installments over a specified period of months or years.

Personal Loan Rates Close to All-Time Lows, Says the Federal Reserve. The average rate on a two-year personal loan was 9.39% in the third quarter of 2021, but creditworthy borrowers may be able to lock in an even lower interest rate.

Lenders determine the interest rates and the eligibility of personal loans based on the credit history of the borrower. You should check your credit score and get a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus before you apply to determine if this option is right for you.

You can compare the personal loan rates of several lenders on Credible to make sure you are getting the lowest possible rate for your financial situation. Then use a personal loan calculator to estimate your monthly payment.

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