Medical bills usually aren’t a concern for most people – until they are. And they’re often a lot higher than you expect.

Unlike most other types of debt, medical debt is unique in that medical emergencies, illnesses and accidents can come without warning. In addition, medical debt can leave you with enormous bills that could wipe out your savings and put you in debt for years to come.

handling medical debt

Medical Bill Debt and Your Credit Score

Will medical debt hurt your credit score? The short answer is, yes. But the good thing about medical bill debt is this: the three big credit bureaus (Equifax ®, Experian ® and TransUnion ®) no longer include medical bill debts in credit reports until they’re 180 days overdue. This is contrary to just 30 days for other types of debt. This ‘grace period’ should allow you to time to examine your bills for inaccuracies and work out a strategy to pay off your debt.

After 180 days, your medical debts might show up in your report – but with the new FICO ® score ruling, they don’t have as much weight as other types of debt.

How to Handle Medical Bills Debt

More than 40 million Americans today are having trouble with overdue medical bills. While medical debts can be a huge financial burden and emotionally taxing, there are ways to manage your debt.

Below are five ways you can manage your medical bill debt efficiently.

1. Check if Your Medical Bills are Accurate

After receiving your bill, sit down and check to see if it’s accurate. Look out for possible overcharges, duplicate billing or charges on services that you didn’t receive. Medical bills can be difficult to understand, so if you find yourself confused, contact your hospital’s billing office and don’t think twice about asking for help.

2. Verify Items and Services Not Covered by Insurance

If you have an insurance policy, make sure to check up on services and procedures that your policy should cover. Follow up with your insurance company for services you noticed some discrepancies on and be proactive in disputing them.

3. Communicate and Negotiate

Talking about financial problems can be embarrassing for some people. However, this won’t help solve the problem – and it can actually make the burden worse.

If you’re having trouble with overwhelming medical bills, reach out to your medical provider and attempt to negotiate with them. Many hospitals offer financial assistance to help people burdened with medical care. Check out if you meet their requirements to qualify, and if you don’t quality, your hospital may be able to put you on a more convenient payment plan.

4. Work Out a Payment Strategy

Develop a strategy on how you can pay down your debt faster. Check your budget, cut out some expenses and do research on other payment options you can use to deal with your debt more efficiently.

5. Deal with Your Medical Bills

Avoiding your medical bill will only cause you more trouble later on. Instead of avoiding it, do your best to pay it off as quickly as possible. Make payment arrangements promptly with your medical provider before they are able to transfer your debt to a collection agency.

If you are in serious trouble and simple cannot afford to pay your debt, consider settling your debt. Seek help from reputable companies who can provide you with expert advice to handle your debt based on your current situation.