Even if you have medical aid, a brief stay in hospital or an illness or accident that requires outpatient tests and extended treatment can leave you with a mountain of medical debt to pay. If you have no health coverage, your medical bills can far exceed what you can ever afford to pay. In fact, medical debt has become one of the leading causes of consumer bankruptcy. Making matters worse, a growing number of doctors and hospitals are responding to their own economic pressures by becoming stricter on patients who don't/can't pay their medical bills. The medical provider may:
- Turn your past-due account over to a debt collector:
If the medical provider turns your account over to a debt collector, it will show up on your credit history, therefore lowering your credit score, even if the debt was relatively small.
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- Sue you for the money you owe:
By doing so, the medical provider can get a court's permission to put liens on your property, freeze your bank accounts, seize your assets and/or garnish your wages.
- Refuse to treat you (or your family member):
The provider may take this step even if you or your family member has ongoing medical problems. Some medical providers insist on cash up front in order to obtain additional medical care. In area where there are few alternative providers this could prove to be a huge problem.