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Ways to keep medical expenses down, stay out of debt

Medical costs can add up alarmingly fast, often for only one medical emergency, and health insurance plans don't always cover costs. Medical bills are a major cause for bankruptcy for many Americans. A financial advisor has offered a few tips that may help Floridians to stay out of deep medical debt:

No insurance? Catastrophic health coverage plans are generally affordable, and may be beneficial for those with no insurance or limited insurance options. However, the deductibles are usually high, so it would be best to reserve a catastrophic plan's benefits for an emergency or unexpected medical condition.

Know what your plan covers. One of the worst ways to end up in medical debt is to receive treatment or therapy that isn't covered by your insurance plan, or to go to a specialist or medical center that's out of network. Research your plan thoroughly ahead of time so you're not surprised.

Don't pay for billing mistakes. The financial advisor got stuck with a bill that was $8,000 more than what he should have owed, and it took him over six months to sort it out. He cautions to go over each bill with a fine-toothed comb, because billing mistakes happen.

Work with your provider. If you can't afford your medical bills, speak with your provider directly to see if they can come up with a satisfactory payment plan or even reduce the amount.

Save for an emergency. The tried-and-true saving up for a rainy day applies here. Flexible Spending Accounts or Health Savings Accounts can be especially useful to save for medical expenses, but certain requirements must be met.

Even with the most careful planning, unexpected financial problems happen. It can be beneficial to speak with a bankruptcy attorney to discuss options to reduce debt.

Source: Huffington Post, "5 Ways To Avoid Medical Debt," Ben Edwards, Mar. 3, 2013

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