BOSTON, Mass. – Millions of Americans are crumbling under billions of dollars in medical debt, and several nonprofit organizations are working to help people get their hospital bills under control.
“Medical debt is an unavoidable debt that people don’t choose to incur,” said Jared Walker of the nonprofit Dollar For.
Walker founded Dollar For as a way to help people with medical debt by enforcing the charitable policies of hospitals. Americans currently owe more than $195 billion in medical debt.
“It doesn’t take much to tip the scales for people,” he added.
Have you ever heard of charity care? the idea is quite simple. Six out of 10 hospitals in the United States are nonprofit. In order to maintain this status with the IRS, they must provide charitable care and financial assistance whenever possible. This means that if you fall within a certain income range, hospitals have to waive your medical bills.
“The charity care app is the easiest fruit to help hospitals right now,” Walker added.
To help people struggling with medical debt, Walker and his Dollar For team created a website. It’s basically a database of every hospital in the United States and their financial aid policies. All someone has to do is enter their household size, income, and amount of debt. The website will then show someone the type of assistance they qualify for and connect them with a specialist to help navigate the process.
“The problem is nobody knows. Hospitals don’t do a great job of telling people about it. We have millions of people filing for bankruptcy or paying bills they don’t have to pay,” said Walker.
Other groups are also working to help struggling Americans, including RIP Medical Debt. They eliminated $7 billion in medical bills for over 4 million people.
“There’s a tendency to think differently about medical debt. Medical debt isn’t debt of choice, it’s debt of necessity,” said Eva Stahl, vice president of group policy.
Medical debt experts advise heeding these tips to avoid medical debt:
- Enroll in public insurance if eligible
- Check if details of upcoming procedures are covered
- Always get an itemized bill to review charges
- Verify that providers are networked
- Negotiate directly with your hospital
- Never put medical debt on your credit card