Suffering an injury or requiring an unexpected surgery can land you in the hospital for at least a few days, maybe even a few weeks. It's not something most people want, but accidents happen and some people have medical conditions that require significant attention.
Not only can a hospital stay be stressful, you may be left with piles of medical debt after it's over.
Medical debts can be overwhelming, but they're manageable
The average hospital stay is around $10,000 in the United States. Of course, this does depend on the condition. While a few nights in the Intensive Care Unit might run into the tens of thousands, a single trip to the Emergency Room for some medication for a bad cold could stay in the hundreds.
Americans often struggle with medical debt, even with insurance. High deductibles, combined with missing time from work and the costs that have to be paid out of pocket, make any hospital stay an expensive trip.
Are there ways to manage medical debt effectively?
Yes, it's possible to manage medical debt. The first thing you should do is reach out to the hospital about your trouble paying what you owe. The financing or accounting department may have information about charities or programs that help patients pay off their debts. For example, there may be a charity that works with the hospital and that pays medical debts for anyone who meets a certain household income level.
Another thing you can do is to speak with them about a payment plan, which may be an affordable way to pay back what you owe. Many hospitals will take smaller payments, so long as they are receiving something toward the debt.
Finally, you can look into bankruptcy if your debt is too overwhelming to pay back and can't be dismissed or eliminated in other ways. A bankruptcy won't necessarily make you start over in life, since there are many exemptions. There's a lot to think about, so make sure you take the time to consider your options.