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How to Protect Yourself from Catastrophic Medical Bills


Do you worry about high medical bills? If you don’t have health insurance or have a high-deductible health plan, there’s a good chance you would get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills if you were in an accident, got sick, or landed in the emergency room.

The average cost of a hospital stay without insurance can cost nearly $10,000 and even a doctor’s visit with blood work can end up costing a few hundred dollars. Many Americans just don’t have several thousand dollars available to cover the costs of a medical emergency.

Here are some ways to protect yourself from catastrophic medical bills:

Get Extra Coverage with Supplemental Insurance

Many people aren’t aware they have the option to buy additional coverage beyond what their health insurance covers. If you don’t have any health insurance coverage at all, it makes even more sense to explore supplemental health insurance plans.

Supplemental plans, like Critical Illness Insurance and Hospital Indemnity insurance, provide a lump sum benefit. For example, if you were diagnosed with a critical illness or ended up staying overnight in the hospital, you would receive your benefit and could use that money to cover medical costs, transportation, and any other expenses. Some plans can pay up to $50,000 or more and have a very low monthly premium.

Keep Your Medical Bills Affordable

Be Prepared to Negotiate

Did you know you can negotiate hospital and doctor charges? If you don’t say anything, your medical provider will go ahead and send a bill with an expectation of payment immediately. Take the time to review your bills in detail and your insurance benefits to determine what is and isn’t covered. Knowing your policy details will help you determine whether the hospital or doctor is overcharging you.

It’s also a good idea to check for errors and discrepancies — billing errors and mistakes could mean you are paying a few extra hundred dollars. If you’re being charged appropriately but simply can’t afford to pay, talk to your medical provider to see if they can offer a payment plan or adjust your fees so you can make a timely payment without penalties or excessive charges.

Don’t Live with a Coverage Lapse

If you are between jobs and are going without health insurance for a few months, know that you’re taking a big risk. If you end up in the emergency room or need immediate medical care, you could end up paying several thousand dollars out of pocket. Short term health insurance, also known as temporary health insurance, is ideal for this type of situation. You can get coverage for 30 days or a few months until you’re fully covered again. This can prevent high medical bills and also give you some peace of mind.