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Paying Past Due Medical Bills

Paying Past Due Medical Bills

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Mark Cappel
UpdatedNov 1, 2023

I had a baby and the portion of medical bills that I owe is over $8,000. I can afford only $20 payments. What can I do?

I recently had a baby and the portion of medical bills that I have to pay is well over $8,000 to various companies. I tried applying for assistance to pay the larger bills through the hospital and I was denied. So I tried to arrange $20.00 payments and I was told I had to pay at least $60.00, which would be a real stretch for me. So they said they have to turn these into a collection agency, is this true? I have always heard people say that as long as you make an effort to pay off medical bills that they you cannot be turned into a collection agency. I am also trying to buy a house and I don't want these bills on my credit report, I just think that it is crazy that they expect me to pay that much a month when I told them I cannot do that.

I certainly applaud your efforts to repay these medical bills. Unfortunately, it is up to the creditors what they require in payments each month to prevent the account from going to collections. Technically, the bill is due in full at the time services are provided; any payment arrangement that the medical provider allows you to set up is at its discretion.

Can you make monthly payments on medical bills?

Yes, the creditor will allow you to make your monthly payments. Sometimes even with a negotiated lan.

If you wish to prevent this account from going to collections, then you will need to make the payments required by the creditor. I understand that the $60 payments that they are demanding will be difficult for you to make, but since you are trying to preserve your credit score so you can purchase a home, you may need to try to cut your expenses so you can make the payments required by the creditor. If you do not make the payments the hospital is demanding, they may turn this account over to a collection agency, which could have a negative impact on your credit rating.

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Why the creditor wants you to make significant monthly payments

You may want to consider this situation from the creditor’s point-of-view. If the creditor allowed you to make payments of $20 per month, it would take over 33 years for you to pay off this debt, not including interest. Even at $60, it will take over 11 years to pay off the bill, so the creditor is certainly giving you a fair amount of time to pay off your medical bills. I do not mean to minimize the hardship that these larger payments will cause you, but I simply wanted to let you know why the creditor is asking for more than $20 per month as payments on this debt.

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What to do if you can't afford the monthly medical bill payments?

Unfortunately, if you wish to keep these debts out of collections, you may have no choice but to negotiate a payment plan acceptable to the creditor. Hopefully, you can work these payments into your monthly budget. For a slightly different view of this issue, see the resource If I Pay a Small Amount on My Debt, Can I Be Sued?

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JJohnson, Sep, 2010
Another option can be asking friends and family for financial help. Even when you have insurance, medical bills can still be overwhelming. You might be surprised at how much loved ones, community/church members, etc. can make a difference. You can raise donations and share your situation online with different websites like
BBill, Apr, 2010
Medical debt is unsecured, and as such is treated under the law in the same manner that credit card debt, payday loans, or deficiency balances are. Unsecured debt can be settled for less than the existing balance. See the debt relief savings center to get a quote from pre-screened debt settlement firms.
AAmanda, Apr, 2010
I certainly understand where you are coming from; We were denied every kind of goverment and even non-goverment support (it's nice that I pay my taxes). I can say to an extent that the hospitals and doctors and all the various other expenses with having a child, have the right to demand payment. Unfortunetly, I do not think they understand being polite on the phone makes me want to try harder, not say 'screw you for not getting what I am saying'. The hospital alone wants $500 a month... basically a car payment for a really nice car I will not get. with all the money it takes to feed just our son let alone us, how on earth will we manage? It is a business, I get that. They are there to make money. But, when will there be a break in the system to help people who truly need it? My husband works full time with overtime at $8 an hour... he is an electrition for goodness sakes. But, we make too much money to get help. The credit cards they suggested would just put us in more debt with their 25% interest, and we were denied anyway. When is the system going to really help? I was treated horibly because I had insurance, when I am the type to pay all the medicaid people's bills? They get free bills. Nothing, nada, zilch!!! So I pay my bills and all the people who don't have to pay a dime...
BBill, Jan, 2010
Medical bills are payable on performance. There is no legal requirement that medical service providers offer reasonable payment plans, although the smart ones do.
RRalph Cantrell, Jan, 2010
Recently a relative gave birth to a little girl who has severe heart defects that will require several surgeries over the next few years and will hopefully correct some of them. Since the birth they have been inundated with medical bills - even though they have insurance - the amounts being discussed are astronomical. They talked to the hospital financial office about setting up a payment schedule that they could afford without going into bankruptcy. But what disturbs me is that they are being told they have to repay everything in 12 months. this surprises me since when I was a child my mother underwent several back and heart surgeries and they were always allowed to setup a payment plan with the hospitals that required them to make payments on a regular basis without them going bankrupt. What has changed?
BBill, Feb, 2009
A few hospitals and other non-profit medical facilities receive funds from the federal government so they can offer free or low-cost services to those who are unable to pay. Teaching hospitals may also provide such services.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a list of hospitals and healthcare facilities that participate in the Hill-Burton Free and Reduced Cost Health Care program. See the document Hill-Burton Facilities Obligated to Provide Free or Reduced-Cost Health Care for a complete list of participating facilities.

The American Cancer Society offers a directory of resources devoted to insurance and financial assistance. See Health Insurance and Financial Assistance for the Cancer Patient for a document that covers a wide range of financial options and related issues, including a listing of states with health insurance "risk pools" for individuals who have been denied private health insurance.

There are also Web sites like CancerCompass that offer a range of information as well as forums where questions and answers can be submitted and discussed online.

Help may also be available though church, civic, social, and fraternal groups in the community, as well as Salvation Army, Catholic Social Services, the United Way, Jewish Social Services, and others that can be found in the yellow pages. This is a difficult situation, but you are not alone in facing these hurdles, so reach out these and other reputable organizations.

NNancy Singleton, Feb, 2009
I have just been diagnosed with cancer. I have no insurance and will not go on medicare until November. I need help paying for my treatments and do not know where to turn,can you help me or tell me who can?
NNoorazman, Feb, 2009
If you need help paying medical bills, you should contact your creditors. Almost all hospitals and doctor's organizations will allow you to set up a payment plan. Many will allow you to pay minimal monthly payments with little or no interest. You should definitely avail yourself of such a plan if one is offered by your medical creditor. You won't know about one however if you don't ask. Hospitals have an office of patient relations or patient finances. Go meet with the representative and discuss your debt.In addition to a payment plan, many hospitals will forgive a substantial portion of your debt if you contact them before things get out of hand. You can easily get 25% - 75% of your medical bills waived. This is usually income dependent, but you can make a hardship case that will get you a further reduction. Almost all medical facilities will offer this. (If you got male enhancement surgery or a hair transplant, you're probably out of luck.) They will usually let you list any financial hardship you have recently suffered and will take them into account when figuring your forgiveness. They will be much less likely to do this if you wait until your bills go to collection. In fact, by then it's most likely too late, so act sooner, rather than later. Usually, doctor's associations aren't as likely to offer such programs. Medical school loans have to be paid, you know. Sometimes the doctor's school loan payment is bigger than your mortgage. It doesn't hurt to ask, however.
WWaltraud, Feb, 2009
I have a friend who is on Social Security because of health problems. She is on medicate but has to pay part of a bill ($ 176) from a hospital treatment. Because of her limited income she is not able to pay this amount, she can hardly make her rent and car insurance. Is there any program which would help ? I appreciate your information.