How to know if your medical debt is eligible for forgiveness

May 15, 2024 9:12 am
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ORLANDO, Fla. — Over 50% of all debt sitting with third-party collection agencies is medical debt.

In many cases, that debt could have been forgiven by the provider.

Consumer adviser Clark Howard explains why millions of people are still on the hook for medical debt, even though so much of it is eligible for forgiveness.

It’s because of something you may not know about; it’s called “charity care.”

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It’s required by law of nonprofit hospitals, and you wouldn’t believe how likely you are to qualify for it if you need it.

“I knew that I had cancer in December. That’s when I got my diagnosis. And my breast cancer is triple negative,” said breast cancer patient Rene Coker.

Coker’s cancer diagnosis is more than a physical burden; like millions of others, it’s also a financial burden.

The single mother of a young adult son works for an answering service and makes $14 an hour.

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Even after insurance, Coker faces tens of thousands in medical bills.

Coker says her stepmother became her advocate for financial assistance.

After speaking with one provider, she was shocked to learn just how much she qualified for.

Jared Walker founded the nonprofit Dollar For. The organization helps consumers apply for charity care at hospitals.

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Program requirements vary by hospital and state.

Users enter their income, medical costs, and hospital, and Dollar For lets them know if they qualify.

Since 2019 Dollar For has helped get $44 million in medical debt forgiven.

Patients have 240 days from the start of treatment to apply and one year before medical bills can be sent to collections.

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Also, avoid applying for a medical credit card or charging up your existing cards. Once you do that you no longer qualify for charity care.

Coker says being persistent is key to getting financial relief.

Even if you don’t qualify for full forgiveness, you may qualify for partial forgiveness on a sliding scale.

If you don’t qualify for that, then negotiate.

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See how much of a reduction you can get in your bill and ask a lot.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get it.

See more in the video above.

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