Sep 18, 2023

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Woman on the phone holding a prescription bottle.

You could argue that there is nothing more important than your health, and you might be willing to spend whatever it takes to maintain it. At the same time, it can be stressful to get a bill for a medical procedure that is not covered by insurance.

Your health can have a far-reaching physical and emotional impact. And paying for health care can add anxiety. In fact, a national survey conducted by Discover® Personal Loans found that financial stress impacts how Americans seek and pay for medical care.*

Surprise medical bills amplify stress and are quite common. According to a survey from the Federal Reserve, 23% of U.S. adults faced major, unexpected medical expenses in April to June 2022.1 And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that health care expenses in general rose 9.2% compared with the same timeframe in 2021.2

Expected or not, medical bills can be challenging to navigate. Which procedures will be covered by your insurance? How can you pay for medical bills? And where can you turn for help?

The good news is there are lots of tools to help you manage health care expenses, including personal loans for medical bills. Read on to learn about your health care finance options.

Table of contents

What medical procedures are covered by insurance?

Coverage plans from employers or private insurance can vary, but you can use the Health Insurance Marketplace to find examples of what may be covered by health insurance.

Preventive services such as screenings and physicals usually have some form of coverage, as do emergency services.

Sometimes your doctor will suggest a procedure or treatment as necessary, but your health insurance could view it as nonessential. Depending on your insurance, examples of things deemed nonessential could include Lasik or certain plastic surgeries, hearing aids, liposuction, acupuncture, or hair transplants.

With this in mind, it’s good to do some research ahead of time. Check with your health insurance company before scheduling any procedure. This will give you a clear idea of whether you will be responsible for some or all of the cost.

How can I reduce my health care costs?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Does your insurance provider offer financial assistance, a sliding scale, or a payment plan? Can your doctor coordinate with other providers?

Could multiple procedures be combined into one visit, so you can save money on anesthesia costs, operating room expenses, and recovery time in the hospital?

It never hurts to get creative when it comes to figuring out how to navigate medical expenses.

How can I pay for medical bills?

You may be wondering how to pay for an important procedure when costs are high. While health insurance can cover a significant part of your medical expenses, you may still have out-of-pocket expenses to cover.

If you are uninsured or your health insurance does not fully cover your expenses, you will be responsible for paying the remainder of your medical bills. And that amount can add up quickly.

First, find out what you will have to pay out-of-pocket. If your doctor’s office has an insurance coordinator, start there. They can help you understand which costs insurance will cover, and which ones you will be responsible for. You can also call your insurance company to confirm the amount.

Once you know what you will need to pay, it’s time to make a plan for paying your medical bills. Check your budget to see if there’s room to pay your medical bills, or if you need to make some adjustments.

Here are some other ways to manage health care expenses:

Start an emergency fund 

The money you save in this account is for emergencies only. In addition to medical debt, use this fund to pay for other unexpected expenses like car or home repairs. It’s a comfort to have funds available when you need them.

Negotiate with your providers

Don’t hesitate to contact your medical and insurance providers to discuss your bill. They may be willing to accept less than what you owe if you can send a lump-sum payment immediately. Also, review your bill and insurance Explanation of Benefits (EOB) carefully. Medical bills can have errors, so you need to look for discrepancies.

Set up a payment plan

If you don’t have enough money in the bank and your health care providers won’t negotiate the final bill, you can ask to set up a payment plan. That way you can make monthly payments until your balance is paid in full.

Apply for a personal loan for medical bills

Personal loans have many uses; paying medical bills is one of them. You may find that a personal loan is a better choice than a higher-interest credit card. A personal loan gives you one set regular monthly payment and a defined repayment term.

Using a personal loan for health care financing

In the end, taking care of your health is the most important benefit of paying your medical bills. A personal loan  may help you relieve financial stress and pay your doctors so you can focus on your own healing.

To make the process less difficult, we have step-by-step guides to help you gather the information you need. And, with Discover Personal Loans, the money can be sent as early as the next business day if you’re approved for and accept the loan.  

Use our calculator to estimate your loan payments. Just enter your credit score and loan amount. Then you can build a smart budget to tackle your health care expenses.

Estimate Payments

Articles may contain information from third parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third party or information.

*About Survey: A national survey of 1,521 U.S. residents ages 18 and up was commissioned by Discover and conducted by Dynata (formerly Research Now/SSI), an independent research firm, between May 18 and May 30, 2022. The maximum margin of sampling error was +/-3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.