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Medical debt can be overwhelming, especially if you have a disability that is keeping you from working. Not only can long-lasting debt ruin your credit score, but it can also lead to lawsuits and other legal proceedings. The quick answer is, yes, there are ways that you can have medical debt forgiven. But the answer is very nuanced. This article is going to look at medical debt forgiveness, how having a disability impacts that forgiveness, and what other alternatives are available if you can’t get your debt forgiven. 

What Is Medical Debt?

Medical debt is any debt that you incur from either routine or emergency medical procedures. This may look like a simple doctor’s appointment that you decided to pay out over time, or it can be an emergency hospital visit that incurred a large medical bill. Either way, medical debt is oftentimes absolutely necessary, and yet also absolutely outrageously inflated. Even a simple visit to the hospital for some tests can lead to thousands of dollars worth of medical bills. If you have excessive medical debt, and you aren’t sure how you are going to pay it all off, keep reading to learn about medical debt forgiveness, debt forgiveness alternatives, and more.

What Is Medical Debt Forgiveness?

Medical debt forgiveness occurs when the hospital or doctor’s office that you owe money to dismisses your debt. Medical debt is a form of debt that is slightly different from its counterparts like credit card debt and personal loans. While medical debt doesn’t immediately impact your credit score, it often has a low or non-existent interest rate. Hospitals are also much more likely to negotiate with an individual to come to an agreed-upon payment. Because of the flexibility associated with medical debt, it is often easier to have debt reduced or dismissed. This can occur for a variety of reasons. Often, hospitals and doctor’s offices have certain policies that allow for the forgiveness of debt in certain situations.

In fact, the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare, has a direct stipulation that requires hospitals that are not-for-profit (which makes up about half of the hospitals in the nation) to forgive a percentage of the medical debt based on the individual’s income. So, if you owe money to a not-for-profit hospital, you may want to look into their financial assistance policy. In most cases, if you make 200% of the poverty line, you can have up to 100% of your medical debt forgiven. If you make anywhere between 201% and 300% of the poverty limit, you can also have steep discounts taken off of your medical debt.

Other Medical Debt Forgiveness Options

Regardless of whether or not you are suffering from a disability, this is something you will want to look into! However, if you make above 300% of the poverty limit, don’t count yourself out. Some people have sent letters to hospitals. They tell their story and explain why they can’t keep up with their payments. In response, the hospitals either forgave all or some of the debt. Either way, this is something to look into if you are drowning in medical debt. 

Overall, it is generally worth reaching out to your hospital to see if they have any kind of program that could either forgive some of your medical debt OR set you up on an extended repayment plan. Not-for-profit hospitals tend to be easier to work with in this regard. But you can still reach out to your hospital to see if they have programs that may help you. 

Can You Get Medical Debt Forgiven With A Disability?

Being an individual with a disability can be difficult when it comes specifically to income. If you or a loved one has a disability or has recently become disabled, you may be searching for how you can get out of medical debt with a possibly limited income. 

As mentioned above, it is always worth your time to reach out to the hospital you owe money to and see if there is a program or debt forgiveness policy that could help you out. If you are disabled and have an overwhelming amount of medical debt, there are still things you can do to ensure you are able to get out of medical debt. In fact, there’s a possibility that you can receive more assistance because of the disability. 

So, in short, yes! You can still have your medical debt forgiven. Just make sure to talk to the hospital, explain your situation in detail, and see if they are able to forgive your debt, or at the very least, reduce the total amount. Hospitals very often upcharge their procedures, tests, and checkups, mostly because of insurance. However, if you are going to the hospital without insurance, the entire, inflated cost goes directly to you. Hospitals typically offer insurance agencies a lower price. When talking to the hospital make sure that you are getting the lowest price possible. Doing these things may be helpful in lowering the amount of debt that you have. However, if you still have medical debt after all that, debt collectors may begin popping up.

Also, if it’s helpful, feel free to take our free medical debt options calculator below to compare your options.

Will Debt Collectors Come After My Medical Debt With My Disability?

Just because an individual has a disability does not stop debt collectors from pursuing a debt. After a certain period of time, one of two things may happen with your medical debt. First, your hospital may have its own debt collectors come after you demanding payment. Typically, this is something that a for-profit hospital would do. The second thing that may happen is that the hospital sells its debt to a debt collection agency. If this happens, then the debt collection agency would send its own collectors out after repayment. Depending on how the hospital elected to sell its debt, you may no longer have the chance to talk with the hospital to negotiate down your debt. 

How Can Debt Collectors Contact You?

Debt collectors can pursue you in a variety of ways. They can call you, email, send physical mail, and even show up at your house! It can be a scary and overwhelming thing to go through. All the debt collector can do, however, is let you know about the debt that you owe, ask you to pay it, and remind you of the consequences of not paying the debt (i.e. a lawsuit). Debt collectors CAN NOT threaten you, harass you, tell others about your debt, enter your home, or take your property. 

It’s important to remember your rights when debt collectors begin communicating with you. If a debt collector oversteps his legal boundaries, you may want to reach out to an attorney who can help you better understand what your options are to fight back. Unfortunately, debt collectors will not ignore your debt because of a disability. You can, however, get debt collectors to stop. If you send in a cease and desist letter, debt collectors can no longer contact you. This doesn’t stop the ramifications of unpaid debt, but it can buy you some peace while trying to figure it all out. 

How Can I Get Out Of Medical Debt, Even With My Disability?

If you have talked with your hospital and still have debt left over, there may be some other options you can look into. There are a variety of debt relief programs specifically created for individuals with disabilities that could help you get out of medical debt fast. Some religious organizations, nonprofits, and governmental entities have grants available to help with the medical debt of both children and adults. 

If you are an adult with a disability, you may be eligible for something called Social Security Disability Insurance. SSDI is an emergency health insurance for individuals who are unable to get health insurance from a place of work because their disability stops them from being employable. This way, individuals with disabilities are able to lower the amount of medical debt they incur, to begin with. Supplemental Security Income is another program. This program is for individuals with disabilities and provides extra income based on financial needs. This income can go towards food, clothing, and shelter, which can free up some funds for your medical expenses. 

You may also want to look into Medicare and Medicaid Waivers that may provide additional funds or help take care of some of the medical debt. There are also tax deductions that may be helpful to individuals with disabilities who have excessive medical debt. Make sure to explore your options thoroughly. 

Can Disabled Veterans Have Their Medical Debt Forgiven?

On top of what has been mentioned above, if you are a veteran with a disability, you may have even more opportunities for debt relief from organizations like Veteran’s Affairs (VA). The VA has dozens of programs that they offer veterans that can help lower other costs. This could free up money to pay down your medical debt.

They also have specific programs for medical debt like disability compensation. The compensation depends on a number of factors, including the level of disability and the number of dependents the veteran may have. For instance, a 50% disabled veteran with one dependent could receive up to $1,056. This amount can go up depending on the level of disability a veteran has and how many dependents are living in the home with the veteran. Reach out to the VA if you are a veteran with a disability and see how they can help you out financially and medically.  There are also some grants, like mentioned above, that are specifically designated for veterans with disabilities. 

A Word Of Warning

One of the worst things you could do when facing medical debt is to pay it off with a credit card. The likelihood of a hospital suing you is relatively low. Also, hospitals tend to have either a minuscule interest rate or no interest rate at all. Hospital debts also have greater flexibility in payments and negotiations, as well as more opportunity for assistance in paying. If you open up a credit card account and pay off the sum of your hospital debt, you forfeit all the flexibility and options that a hospital has to offer. Instead of having medical debt, you would then only have credit card debt, which is much less flexible, has higher interest rates, and a higher likelihood of lawsuit. In almost every case, keeping the debt through the hospital is a much better decision than putting the debt back onto a credit card.

Conclusion 

Medical debt is difficult, as it often points to an intense medical procedure that was absolutely necessary, yet grossly overpriced. Don’t let the medical debt you have overwhelm you! There are many different options you can look at to see if you qualify for medical debt forgiveness or other medical debt relief programs. Reach out to your hospital, see what their financial assistance policy is, look into SSDI, and see if there are any grants you may qualify for to help get you back to a place of financial stability. 

Also, if it’s helpful, feel free to take our free medical debt options calculator below to compare your options.

Post Author: LincolnE

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