5 Ways Millennials are Coping with Medical Debt in the U.S.

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medical debt
Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Monday January 23, 2023

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Nearly half of Americans are unhappy with the United States health care system and a significant reason is the cost of health care. Many millennials have medical debt due to the high prices.

With a worsening economy, these adults are struggling more than the generation before and after them to afford the costs that come with physical exams, illness treatment, and surgeries. These — combined with housing costs, gas prices and other inflation elements — make it hard for them to stay afloat.

Why Are Millennials in So Much Medical Debt?

Younger millennials struggle with debt in various ways. From student loans to credit cards and car payments, increased prices and a struggling economy led to unestablished young adults needing help to pay their bills.

Millennials are still young, making them less at risk for various health conditions. However, 23% admit skipping mortgage or rent payments due to debt and 52% say medical debt damages their credit score.

A large part of their struggle is due to insurance. As they age out of a parent’s insurance plan, many struggle to choose a plan that works for them and is affordable. Deductibles rose 150% between 2009 and 2018 — over the past decade, out-of-pocket costs increased by over 70%.

More millennials now work in previously unconventional jobs. Freelancers and independent contractors are responsible for taking care of their insurance, making it more expensive. Even getting insurance through work might take too much from their paycheck or not cover everything they need.

If you struggle with medical debt and can’t get insurance, here are five ways to help resolve it.

1. Utilize Payment Plans 

Even a simple doctor’s visit can cost hundreds of dollars in the United States. Before you panic about the bill, ask your office about breaking up your payment into smaller chunks.

Medical offices want to avoid sending your bills to a debt collector since they won’t get nearly as much in return. Instead, they’ll create payment plan options where you can pay small amounts over time and avoid debt.

Don’t forget to use your negotiating power. Know what you can afford each month ahead of time and work with them to create a plan that works best for you. Ensure you can back up any financial claims you make with pay stubs or bills in case proof is necessary.

2. Apply For Charity Funds 

Non-profit hospitals must have a financial assistance program to help you with your medical bills. Many for-profit facilities have charity care programs that provide similar services.

These programs work to help you stay out of debt and there is no shame in applying. The funds likely won’t cover all of your bills but can significantly affect how much you owe. Once you reduce your bills, you can look at payment plan options to help you finish paying them off.

3. Crowdfund

Each year, crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe and Fundable host hundreds of thousands of medical-related fundraisers. Many of these are from a person or their family who needs help covering their bills.

With the right promotion via social media, you’ll likely get several donors to your cause. Around one in five people donate to online medical-related campaigns and you could quickly reach your financial goal. It might seem awkward initially, but as long as you use the donated money as you say you will, there’s no problem with asking for help.

4. Utilize a Medical Bill Advocate

Some medical charges are overpriced or unnecessary, but it can be hard to argue with the people who manage your health. Consider getting a medical bill advocate if you’re uncomfortable negotiating your medical bills. These professionals are experts in reading and identifying problems with the bills. They can then negotiate them on your behalf, saving you money.

You can find advocates in your area with an online search. Read the reviews to see how satisfied others were with their service.

5. Begin an Emergency Fund

If you’re having trouble with debt, it may seem counterintuitive to start saving the money you get. However, creating an emergency fund can help you get out of debt and prevent owing in the future.

Open an account or dedicate a safe space to saving a small amount of money each month — even a few dollars will make a difference over time. Once you build up enough funds, you can use them to contribute to your debt payments and pay for future expenses without having to take on as much debt. As you save, keep an updated budget nearby to get a clear financial picture.

Managing Medical Debt 

Everyone needs health care throughout life, but in countries like the U.S., health care can lead to hefty medical bills. Millennials are among the hardest-hit generations, finding themselves in an increasing medical debt due to inflation and insurance costs. You can reduce medical debt by exploring payment options and putting yourself on a better financial path.

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