What Happens When You Don’t Pay Your Medical Bills?

If you’re struggling with unpaid medical bills, you’re not alone.

Americans are estimated to owe as much as $140 billion in unpaid medical debt, according to a 2021 study from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

Mounting medical bills can wreck your financial life. They can damage your credit score, make it difficult to pay other bills and demolish your emergency savings fund.

But the rising cost of health care and a lack of adequate insurance makes it difficult for many people to escape medical bills.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take both before and after seeking health care to help lower or even eliminate your medical debt.

So What Happens When You Don’t Pay Medical Bills?

You might not want to deal with that bill — but avoiding your medical debts can have serious financial consequences.

Specifically, this is what can happen if you don’t pay medical bills:

  • Additional reminders and phone calls from the hospital or doctor’s office
  • Late fee charges
  • Forwarding the debt to a collections agency
  • Increasing letters and phone calls from the agency
  • Legal action, such as wage garnishment

If a medical bill isn’t paid after a certain period of time, it can be turned over to a debt collection agency.

So long as a medical bill is yours, it’s accurate and you owe the money, then debt collectors can contact you to try to collect it, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Letting your medical bills linger in collections is a bad idea. Debt collectors can actually sue you to recover the money.

If they win the lawsuit, the debt collector can garnish wages from your bank account or place a lien on your home.

To avoid having your bill sent to collections, call the hospital or doctor’s office billing department and work with them to create a payment plan you can afford — then stick to it.

How Unpaid Medical Bills Impact Your Credit Score

Unpaid medical bills won’t hurt your credit score right away….

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