According to a report up by the online news source, NerdWallet, about 20 percent of Americans will face the hurdle of having to deal with a massive medical bill this year. These are bills that typically result because of significant accident or a diagnosis of major illness.

Those who have insurance may enjoy a cushion, but health coverage in extreme circumstances isn’t always 100 percent. What doesn’t get covered that way often is covered by a draining of savings, a maxing out of credit cards, or taking out another mortgage on the house. 

Many people fear bankruptcy because they don’t understand the process. They may also make the mistake of thinking that bankruptcy somehow is an indictment of their fiscal failure. It is not. Bankruptcy may be a viable option for recovery. That’s something to discuss with an experienced attorney.

Specific to medical bills, it may be important for readers to appreciate that there are actions they may be able to take to deal with medical debt obligations. Here are some tips as provided by NerdWallet:

  • Get questions answered ahead of care: This may not be possible in all instances. In those where a treatment can be planned, though, find out what the expected cost may be. Do this by talking to the provider’s billing department and your health insurer.
  • Know your bill: Your bill should be itemized, whether it reflects planned treatment or emergency care. It should show all the services, equipment or medications provided. Itemization can turn up mistakes of duplication of charges or unnecessary services. Cross check dates and times to be sure no errors have been made on that front. If you don’t understand something on the bill, or you question the appropriateness of a charge (e.g. a $5 adhesive bandage) ask for answers until you get answers.
  • Consider negotiating: It might seem contrary to social convention, but don’t be afraid of working one-on-one, in person, and negotiate with billing agents. Consider offering to pay an amount you deem honestly fair for services received.
  • Consult a patient advocate: Medical bills can be confusing. Finding and working with a professional patient advocate who can sort through the complexities of a bill and find opportunities for savings can be a big help.

Source:, “Tips to Negotiate Your Medical Bills,” Bisi Ibrahim, Sept. 22, 2013