It happens to the best of us. We’re human, and we get sick. It’s part of life.

But what happens when you’re between insurance providers and you have an unexpected ER visit? Or you discover that your achy knee is actually a torn ligament that requires surgery?

When medical expenses hit, they often hit hard. But there are ways to mitigate the impact they can cause to your finances, so you can focus on your health and recovery rather than your bills. Here we’ll explore how medical bills can affect your credit and how to minimize any negative impact.

How Do Medical Bills Affect My Credit?

The good news is, medical bills don’t impact your credit score as long as you pay them off, either incrementally or all at once. In fact, most hospitals or medical groups will work with you on a monthly payment plan to keep your bill from being sent to a collections agency.

If a bill does slip through the cracks and is sold off to a collections agency, you typically have 180 days to pay off the debt before it impacts your credit, since medical bills sometimes get tricky due to insurance. If that 180-day grace period passes with no payments made, then the bill will reflect on your credit report and your rating will drop. However, in most scoring models, medical bills don’t have quite as heavy an impact on your credit as other types of debt.

What if My Bill Goes to Collections?

When you’re overwhelmed with medical bills on top of the rest of your normal monthly expenses, it’s easy to set the medical bills aside and forget about them, and before you know it you’re getting calls from a collections agency. So what steps should you take if your medical expenses wind up in collections?

As discussed earlier, if you pay your bill off within 180 days, it most likely won’t show up on your credit report at all. But if this isn’t an option, there are a few routes you can take:
  • Get on a payment plan. Collections agencies are typically willing to work with you if you’re unable to pay the full debt at once. See if you can set up a monthly payment plan that will keep your payments reasonable but still allow you to make progress toward resolving your debt.
  • Double-check your bill for errors. Occasionally hospitals overcharge or insurance companies underpay. If you feel your bill is inaccurate, ask the hospital or medical provider for an itemized bill that outlines all the services and treatments you received so you can check for errors and dispute them if necessary.
  • Request financial aid. If your medical bill is particularly burdensome, you may qualify for financial aid that can reduce your bill significantly. Contact the hospital or medical provider directly and ask about their financial aid programs.
  • Negotiate a payoff deal. Sometimes creditors will take a lesser amount if you can pay off the entire debt at once. Call your creditor and see if they’ll cut you a deal for paying your debt in full.
If you miss the 180-day grace period and your credit has been impacted, it’s even more important to pay off your bill as quickly as possible, because some collections agencies will pursue legal action against you. This can result in garnishing your wages.

At this point, your only option to remove a medical bill from your credit report is to pay off the debt. You can set up a payment plan directly with the collections agency, or if you need to repair your credit quickly, you can explore other payoff options.

How Can I Prevent Medical Bills from Impacting My Credit?

Although medical debt doesn’t hit your credit nearly as hard as derogatory marks such as late payments or legal judgments, it’s still not ideal to have on your credit report. The only way to keep these unexpected expenses from wreaking havoc is to pay them off before they ever reach collections, which is easier said than done.

A loan from LendNation can help you pay off your bill quickly. LendNation offers a number of loan options – title loans, installment loans and payday loans – to get you the cash you need, fast. Convenient online and in-store loans can help you worry less and keep your credit intact.

Don’t let unexpected expenses ruin your credit. Apply for a LendNation loan today!