5 Strategies to Handle Unexpected Medical Costs

Last Updated on December 4, 2019

When you are hit with unexpected medical costs, it can be quite upsetting. Not only are you left dealing with your illness or injury, but now you also have to worry about how you’re going to pay for it. It might throw off your whole budget, and you will have to do some quick adjusting.

Even if you live in a country with free health care, not everything is free. You aren’t as likely to get an outrageous bill, but there are still going to be some out of pocket expenses that could be tough to cover.

But your health matters, so you’re going to have to find some way to absorb the cost. There are various methods of doing that, though, that have proven effective for people. These are five strategies that might help.

Use Your Savings

Using your savings is not an ideal solution, but when there are unexpected medical costs, nothing is going to be ideal. Hopefully you have an emergency fund in place for this very reason. Or maybe you have a chunk of money that you were saving for a new car, a family vacation, or something less than essential. Now might be the time to consider using it. You won’t want to do it, but using the “rainy day fund” can be a way to stay out of debt.

Check the Math

If you’re getting hit with a slew of medical bills, or even a single extremely high one, it pays to double-check that you are liable for all of it, and that there are no mistakes. Many bills contain other errors besides the math. You might be charged for a service that you did not receive, so make sure that your statement is itemized. If yours is not, request one that is. In all likelihood, you won’t be dealing with small sums of money on these bills, and any error could potentially be a difference of hundreds of dollars or more.

Monthly Installment Loans

You can also use monthly installment loans if you need some money urgently. A monthly installment loan is a loan where you, the borrower, must return the principle through monthly payments of a fixed amount. Those amounts are amortized, meaning that you will be charged interest as a part of the payments that you are making.

This loan is still debt, though. So taking out a loan might only make sense for you if you’re in a pinch. Of course, you will still need to go through an approval process. You’ll also want to be sure you can pay the loan back according to the terms to avoid getting or staying in the debt cycle.

Find Out If You’re Affected by Balance Billing

If you went to the hospital and several different medical professionals treated you, it is possible that one of them might have been out of your network. If that is the case, they are going to charge you a higher rate. That’s called balance billing, and it might be part of the reason your bill is so high. If that happens to you, check to see if you are in a state where there are consumer protections against it. If there are, then you should be able to get your bill reduced.


Some people might be surprised that this is even an option, but if you’re truly that strapped for cash, you can call the hospital or your doctor’s office and try to get your bill reduced or set up a payment plan that is more reasonable. Doctors and other medical professionals understand that sometimes a patient cannot pay all at once. Depending on your situation, you might get some of the cost deferred or forgiven.

Unexpected medical bills can be a burden, but there are lots of different options for dealing with them, so don’t despair. You might need to get creative, but you should be able to figure out a way to pay them over time, if not immediately.

Amanda Kay

Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.

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1 thought on “5 Strategies to Handle Unexpected Medical Costs”

  1. I love the tip about negotiating your bill. I didn’t know this until a few years ago that you can actually contact the billing department to work something out. It’s good to know there are options for unexpected emergencies. They can really throw you into a financial tailspin.


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