How to pay off overdue medical bills


Q. I have a bunch of outstanding doctor and hospital bills. Some are in collections. I only have a little bit of money each month to pay. Is it better to pay a little to each one or give one more money to pay off faster? And what happens if you ignore a collection agency call?
— In debt

A. There’s no one right way to go here. Much depends on how the doctors and hospitals are treating the debt and whether they’re willing to work with you.

You should start by contacting each, and coming up with a plan to pay off the debts. Just don’t make promises you can’t keep. Tell them what you can afford, and if they allow you on a payment plan, stick to the plan.

As for whether you should pay a little at once to all or a larger chunk to just one, that’s really a personal preference.

“I would list the debts from smallest to highest, then pay the minimum towards each but dedicate some additional of the dollars you have available to the smallest debt,” said Bill Connington of Connington Wealth Management in Fairfield. “When that is paid off then move on to the next smallest and continue the same process.”

Connington said the good thing about this method is as you pay off the smaller debts, you can see progress and momentum to getting out of debt.

As for the collection agency calls, Connington said, it is better to speak with them and let them know what your situation is and try to work out a payment plan – if the debt is legitimate.

“First find out what the debt is for, and if not yours, then write to the agency to dispute the debt,” he said. “Remember the debt, if legitimate, will not go away and probably get bigger.”

Read here to learn more about how medical debt affects your credit score.

Also see if a medical debt advocate can help.

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