In case your unpaid medical payments are despatched to collections, observe these steps

Once I was denied medical treatment in a walk-in clinic.

OK, it did not squeeze – just a sinus infection filled with mucus. But still.

I sat in the stark clinic in the small town of Clemson, South Carolina. I signed up, waited an hour, resigned myself to the missing classes and finally heard my name.

The woman behind the desk said something like "Ma'am, it looks like you have an unpaid bill, we called you collections, we can not see you until you pay."

I blushed and stammered a few What is and pulled out my debit card. Apparently, my amiable co-pay insurance did not cut short when I was visiting a year earlier, and the bill was lost during my frequent days in the apartment.

Fortunately, I could afford to pay the $ 100 bill locally, and to my knowledge, I had no problems with my balance.

But I am not the only one who is faced with this problem. According to a December 2014, more than 43 million Americans have medical debt Report of the Office of Financial Consumer Protection,

A 2016 Study by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that one in five Americans With Health insurance – that's me – has unpaid, overdue medical bills. Of the 13% of Americans without Health insurance, 29% have unpaid bills.

So what happens if you do not pay medical bills?

After paying my overdue bill, my 20 year old self began to put together memories.

I have received several missed calls and no voicemails from a number in Miami. It was not strange though – I'm from Florida. I thought it was just a wrong number.

In retrospect, I'm pretty sure that was the case Collections Ring.

The majority – 99.4% – of the medical debt is reported by third parties collection agencies, according to the Office for Financial Consumer Protection, There it is filed as a "medical collection" and can be kept for up to seven years as your collection Credit score worsens.

Think of all these unpaid bills in collections. Among unpaid mortgages, outstanding car payments and even annoying parking tickets, more than half of all collections in credit reports are linked to medical bills.

Many people argue that these debts are different.

You do not knowingly invest in a medical bill. This is usually an emergency and you can not do this Not Go to the hospital after breaking a limb.

But though there is a difference, the bills are treated the same as other debts. In fact about one third Of the 43 million Americans who have medical debt, otherwise they have perfect credit scores.

This unintentional, unexpected bump in your Credit score It could prevent you from taking out a future loan, or increase your interest rates.

Why would you not pay your medical bills?

Well, some of us can not afford to act unexpectedly medical bills,

But if you're like the younger version of me – and many other Americans – you just are not aware of it.

The number of consumer complaints about recovering medical claims increased slightly in 2015, and many of these complaints came from consumers who had assumed that insurance matters were covered Office for Financial Consumer Protection,

At other times, there were billing issues about medical providers or insurers.

The same organization expressed its concern about the use of medical collections – an important point is that many consumers do not know that their medical debts exist at all, as opposed to unpaid electricity and telephone bills.

This is me.

You can do the following to avoid unpaid medical bills

The best adviceAs with almost every financial matter, it's important to stay proactive.

Pat Palmer, founder and CEO of Medical Billing Advocates of America, suggests keeping in touch with your healthcare provider. Even a month after your visit, it does not hurt to call her.

If you do If you are in a difficult situation, Palmer offers a few steps you can take.

"First, get a detailed, disaggregated statement to see if you owe it and if it's correct," she says. Make sure the insurance and any discounts have been applied.

Then contact your medical facility. You must contact us written Because "the facility has to react legally," says Palmer. "You have a right."

At this point you can also ask the provider not to send the bill to the shipper. However, this is not guaranteed to work, but it's worth a try.

If you find you owe the bill (like me), try to make phone calls and negotiations with your provider. If you pay without deduction within 10 days, you may receive a discount. If you are unable to, ask for a payment plan, Palmer advises.

I asked about my situation (changing the address) and she said that I should have contacted the medical center in case of need, even though I was not sure if there were any additional charges.

You live and learn, right?

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is an employee author at The Penny Hoarder.

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