NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Medical bills are the No. 1 cause for personal bankruptcy in the United States. Even with Obamacare, some people just can't pay them. This is because medical bills are, after a house, potentially one of the biggest expenses you can encounter in a life-time.
But it's possible to negotiate oppressive medical debt down, freeing up money that should be going toward personal savings and other daily expenses.
Realize you can negotiate
"I used to work on the other side, denying people's claims," says Adria Goldman Gross, a medical bill advocate with MedWise Insurance Advocacy. These days, however, she's in the business of helping people lower their medical bills, which Gross believes are often unreasonable or even predatory. "It really makes me angry," she says.
One of her cases involved a family of six, with one wage earner making $60,000 a year. A hospital forgot to take down the person's insurance information during a medical crisis, adding $23,000 in bills atop the $27,000 paid by the insurance company. "How can you expect them to pay this?" Gross asks.
After some hard horse trading – the kind Gross does every day in her new role – the company finally settled for a face-saving additional $600.
Ask yourself if you can pay
Gross believes the easiest cases to settle are ones you just can’t pay. "If I can prove they can't afford it, that's the easiest," she says of her clients.