Patients have unique considerations when financing future elective medical procedures, emergency bills, and home equipment.
Scheduling future surgeries offers an opportunity to shop around and boost approval rates. In addition, you can take advantage of tourism discounts and time an operation to minimize interest rates.
People dealing with leftover hospital bills after an emergency are often in hardship mode. They have fewer options. Debt consolidation loans and government programs offer limited help.
Home equipment introduces secured alternatives such as rentals and leasing, which you must return at some point. Unsecured loans do not have a return requirement.
Financing Future Elective Medical Procedures
More alternatives exist for patients seeking to finance elective medical procedures. Elective means that the surgeon or practitioner schedules the time the treatment will take place. It is not an emergency.
Request an unsecured personal loan here to fund future treatment. Quick access to cash in your bank account makes it easier to negotiate charges with providers. Other companies fund the provider directly. This limits bargaining power.
Medical financing approval rates are a legitimate concern for patients. They cannot schedule the elective procedures until a lender reviews the application and agrees to lend the money.
Approval rates depend on how closely the individual’s qualifications match the lender requirements. People with weaker resumes should consider recruiting a cosigner to augment their credentials. Finance companies may consider credit score, income levels, and high-risk treatments when making a decision.
Applicants with better credit scores will experience higher medical financing approval rates. Credit scores predict the likelihood that a person will be significantly delinquent on any account in the next 18 months.
The minimum credit score needed for an approval is not ironclad. Each lender has different cut off levels. In addition, income and employment and treatment risks factor into the equation.
Applicants with higher incomes and stronger employment history will experience higher medical financing approval rates. A steady stable paycheck and a low projected Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio increase the chances that a person will make future payments on time.
The lender will require sufficient income to support the projected monthly payments.
- Provide the lender with complete information about your income sources, employer name, and length of time with that employer. This shows that future earnings are reliable.
- Keep your projected DTI as low as possible. DTI is the monthly debt service divided by monthly income. Small principle amounts and/or long repayment terms keep the numerator manageable.
Patients seeking low-risk care have higher medical financing approval rates than those needing high-risk surgeries. People have more difficulty making on-time payments when they experience complications, require longer recovery periods, or face an extended disability.
- Dental care has the shortest recovery and lowest disability risks
- Weight-loss surgery often requires a long recovery and has infection risks
- Cosmetic and plastic surgery can have shorter recovery periods
- In Vitro Fertilization is initially low risk but often leads to an unpaid pregnancy disability
- Tubal reversal surgery carries infection and unpaid pregnancy disability risks
- Veterinary work for pets rarely causes income loss for the owner
A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is the first medical financing option for all patients whose employer offers the benefit. For those with bad credit history or a low FICO score, it may be the only alternative.
An FSA requires employers to reimburse any qualifying claim immediately. This includes claims made at the beginning of the plan year – before the employee contributes to the account. Schedule the elective procedure to coincide with this date.
This makes a health care FSA the ideal bad credit loan with no credit check, guaranteed acceptance, at zero-percent interest or better.
- No credit check – employers cannot pull a copy of the employee’s consumer report
- Guaranteed acceptance – employers must allow all benefit-eligible employees to participate
- Zero percent interest rate or less – employers cannot charge interest. The pre-tax payroll deductions reduce the effective interest rate well below zero.
Healthcare FSA qualifying expense definitions do limit its utility. The treatment must be medically necessary and recognized as valid by the IRS. For example, cosmetic surgery, which improves appearance, does not qualify.
Revolving credit cards are another option consumers can use to pay for elective procedures as well as everyday medical expenses. The open-to-buy determines how much of the cost you can charge to your account. The open-to-buy is the difference between the account limit and balance.
Doctors and hospitals happily take general-purpose credit cards for payment to cover the deductible, coinsurance, copayment, and out of network charges. They may even keep an authorization form on file with your account number to make the process easier.
Credit cards just for medical care often come with interest-free promotional periods. New members have 6, 12, or 18 months to pay the balance down entirely with no interest charges. However, watch out if a positive balance remains at the end of the introductory period. Expect a very high-interest rate applied to the original balance.
Read the card member agreement carefully before choosing this alternative.
Financing medical tourism is perhaps the most cost-effective way to pay for elective procedures. Overseas and offshore providers often charge a small fraction compared to clinics and surgical centers based in the United States. In addition, some of the travel expenses may be tax deductible.
- Treatment costs are often much lower outside of the United States for cosmetic surgery and Artificial Reproductive Technologies. The potential savings on ART are especially important since the number of cycles needed to conceive is unknown.
- Some travel costs may be tax deductible under IRS code. Consult your CPA for an opinion before booking your trip.
Taking Out Loans for Unpaid Emergency Medical Bills
Taking out loans to cope with unpaid emergency medical bills requires a different set of tactics. Emergency means that the person needed care right away and did not have the luxury of time to shop around for the best alternative.
Urgent needs often mean that patients have large surprise hospital and doctor bills after discharge.
- High Deductibles
- Out-of-network Charges
Debt consolidation loans allow consumers to combine emergency medical bills into a single obligation. This arrangement pays off one set of creditors (ambulance, hospital, doctors, etc.) while creating another (bank or online lender).
Debt consolidation loans do not reduce the amount of money you owe. Nor will they always lower the interest rate. However, they can relieve some pressure temporarily. Review the pros and cons before taking this step.
Debt consolidation loans for unpaid medical bills have several drawbacks.
- It is difficult to qualify during a period of financial hardship. Collection accounts appearing on a consumer report will hurt ratings.
- The interest charges may be higher. Most doctors and hospitals do not charge interest on unpaid bills, while lenders always do.
- The debt may stay on your consumer report much longer. Negative information ages from a consumer report 7 years after the date of first delinquency.
Debt consolidation loans for emergency medical bills have two temporary advantages.
- Collection calls will stop once the borrower uses the funding to pay off any past-due accounts.
- Monthly payments may be lower because the new written contract spells out the size of each installment. Most doctors and hospitals do not have written contracts addressing the topic. They want all the money right away.
Government loans for unpaid emergency medical bills are more rumor than reality. The federal government in the United States does not lend money to help people retire health care-related debts.
However, several government programs provide a measure of financial assistance.
- Medicaid covers low-income households and frequently covers qualifying expenses for new enrollees three months retroactively. Contact your local county office for details.
- The federal government offers premium and cost-sharing assistance under the Affordable Care Act. Households earning too much to qualify for Medicaid may receive help affording health insurance coverage for future needs.
- The federal government makes certain health care expenses tax deductible. Families begin seeing the tax savings once these charges exceed 10% of adjusted gross income.
Options for Financing Home Medical Equipment
Rentals, leasing, and purchase loans are the secondary home medical equipment financing options after insurance and donations. Why pay for something that you do not have to?
You may have to pay out-of-pocket for some of these most common home health devices.
- Manual and power wheelchairs/scooters
- Hospital beds and specialty mattresses
- Home modifications such as ramps, railings, and lifts
- Cold therapy units to relieve pain and avoid opioid addictions
Insurance and Donations
Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance plans frequently cover home medical equipment for both temporary and permanent needs. This primary alternative lowers costs considerably and simultaneously creates a ready supply of donated devices.
- File a claim with your insurance carrier to find out the coverage and limits for each device. Insurance plans are more likely to cover any apparatus that addresses a need other than an activity of daily living (eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, and continence).
- Look for donated devices at local non-profit charitable organizations. Many estates donate durable equipment rather than moving it to storage.
Loans to purchase home medical equipment make the most sense for people dealing with long-term health conditions. This option works best when someone has a permanent need. They own the device at the end of the contract.
Unsecured personal loans work well for in this category. It is often difficult to sustain employment when dealing with a permanent disabling health condition. In the event of default, the lender cannot repossess the device.
Rentals & Leasing
Home medical equipment rentals and leasing companies are the primary alternatives for people dealing with temporary health conditions. This option works best when the user is certain they will need the device for a short period.
- Renting or leasing has the lowest initial cost because the person is only purchasing the right to use the device at home for a short period. At the end of the contract period, the company retakes possession of the apparatus.
- Renting or leasing has the highest long-term cost. People with permanent health conditions wind up paying much more over time and risk having the company repossess the device while they still need to use it.