I recently received this question:
My husband and I could really, really use some financial advice. We are both in our 20’s, have a baby, and have been married for a little over 4 years. Unfortunately, we’ve acquired quite a bit of debt, mostly from medical bills because I did not have insurance. But we do have some debt from other sources also. I was wondering if going through a Christian debt consolidation company would be a good way to go. I’m very overwhelmed and would appreciate any help.
She is certainly not alone in struggling with this issue. About 1 in 5 people under age 65 who have insurance reported difficulties in paying for medical debt, according to a survey sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation and New York Times. However, for people without insurance that number rose to more than 50%!
I would encourage you to first take stock of all your debt by sitting down with your husband and going through a budget that details all your obligations and assets. Crown has some wonderful free tools that can help.
As part of that process, gather up ALL of your medical bills and try and read the fine print. Faulty coding or the interpretation of the financial office can impact your bill. In 2012, the Cleveland Plain Dealer did a series of articles that showed as many as 289 people were adding items to medical bills. Mistakes can be made when that many people can add a charge, and often are. US News reported recently, “According to Medical Billing Advocates of America, a national association that reviews medical bills for consumers, 80 percent of hospital bills contain errors.” I’ve found that hospitals and doctors are usually willing to discuss a payment plan, and it’s worth talking to them directly to avoid being sent to a collection agency.
Crown has a valued partner, Christian Credit Counselors whom we have worked with for years, and they can assist you in making good decisions with the debt you may have. But do your research. Before you hire a company, take time to look at their track record and ask hard questions.
Your creditors do want their money, and usually prefer some kind of payment plan. Take advantage of their desire to keep the finances simple and to ask for some debt forgiveness and a payment schedule. Bankruptcy should be your last resort.
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