Credit counseling can be helpful for anyone who is having trouble paying bills from medical treatment. However, there are some circumstances in which credit counseling for medical bills is especially warranted. You should make an appointment to see a credit counselor if you find yourself in one of these situations.
Before You Pay Large Medical Bills With Credit Cards
Although it’s fine to use a credit card to pay small and affordable medical expenses like the co-payment for a doctor’s office visit, transferring large medical debts to a credit card is a bad idea. One reason for this is that credit cards charge high interest rates, whereas hospitals usually charge less interest and sometimes offer no-interest payment plans. Another reason is that putting medical debt on a credit card could make you ineligible for assistance from Medicaid, as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services notes. Thus, if you have a hospital bill large enough that you can’t afford to pay it immediately, put away your credit card and talk to a credit counselor about other options.
Before You Take Out a Mortgage to Pay Medical Bills
Taking out a mortgage is not a good way to pay off medical bills because it turns unsecured debt into secured debt, a major financial no-no. You shouldn’t pay medical bills, which are unsecured debt, using a loan that takes your house as collateral. That move would put you at risk of losing your house if you fell behind on payments. A credit counselor can help you negotiate with your creditors to set up a payment plan that won’t jeopardize your home.
Before You Skip Other Payments
Paying debts should never take priority over paying your rent, and you should never go without adequate food or heating for the sake of paying a medical bill. If you feel that skipping rent or heating payments is the only way to pay your medical bills, see a credit counselor as soon as possible. You may qualify for a hospital financial aid program or government assistance. Even if you don’t, a credit counselor can develop a plan for you that doesn’t require giving up shelter or utilities.
Before You Withdraw From Retirement Savings
Depending on your retirement plan’s rules, you could face large penalties for withdrawing from your retirement savings early to pay a medical bill. And diminishing your retirement funds could have negative consequences like forcing you to postpone retirement. Before you take this step, it’s wise to seek credit counseling for medical bills. A credit counselor can help you explore other courses of action, like negotiating with the hospital for a discount or enrolling in a payment plan. You may find that you’re able to resolve your medical debts without taking money from your retirement account.
Of course, there are many other situations where credit counseling is beneficial. If you have any medical bills that are overdue or that you’re not sure how to pay, you should consider credit counseling.
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