How to wipe out medical debt

CHARLOTTE — More than half of all debt that goes to collection agencies is medical debt. In many cases, that debt could be forgiven, but some patients aren’t aware of this fact.

Consumer advisor Clark Howard spoke with a nonprofit that’s helping people wipe out millions of dollars worth of v.

Rene Coker said her cancer diagnosis is more than just a physical burden; it’s also a financial burden.

“I make $14 an hour. And my breast cancer is triple negative,” Rene Coker explained.

Even after insurance, Rene Coker said she’s facing tens of thousands in medical bills. She said her stepmother, Katie Coker, has become her financial assistant.“

She was just amazing in starting the ball rolling because I just couldn’t think about finances,” Rene Coker expressed.

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

“It’s an enormous blessing. And without that, I would be homeless or die from my cancer,” Rene Coker said.

Jake Walker founded the nonprofit Dollar For, an organization that helps consumers apply for charity care at hospitals. However, program requirements vary by hospital and state.

“People need an advocate. There is a federal law that requires nonprofit hospitals to have charity care,” Walker said. “We’ve created this database because we wanted to put it all in one place.”

Users of the program enter their hospital, income, and medical costs, and Dollars For lets them know if they qualify. Walker said since 2019, Dollar For has helped get $44 million in medical debt forgiven.

“The average policy will waive your medical bills if you’re at like 200% to 250% of the federal poverty guidelines,” Walker explained.

Patients have 240 days from the start of their treatment or one year before their medical bills can be sent to collections to apply. However, one of the biggest mistakes people make is ignoring it.

Patients are encouraged to avoid applying for a medical credit card or charging up their existing cards because once you do that, you no longer qualify for charity care.

Rene Coker echoed that 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 you can try to negotiate to see how much you can get on your bill.

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