Sometimes, debt collectors will lower your medical bill amount if you call them and explain why you can’t afford to pay the full amount. Use the sample scripts below to negotiate your medical debt.
During the call
Start by asking the questions below. You might learn something that could help you. After asking these questions, offer a settlement amount — a single payment to pay off the bill for less than the total amount — that you can afford. Or ask for a payment plan.
Ask Questions To Learn More
“Is interest accruing on the account?”
- If not, then ask: “Will it begin to accrue in the future? When?”
“Will you sue me if I do not pay this bill?”
“Has this bill been referred to a credit reporting bureau?”
“Did you buy the debt or does the hospital still own it?”
- If the hospital still owns the bill, ask: “Does your agency have a contract with the hospital limiting your ability to negotiate? Is there a predetermined cash-settlement payment amount? Is there a date in the future when either the hospital will take the debt back or transfer it to another collector?”
- If the debt collector owns it, ask: “Is there a predetermined cash-settlement payment amount?”
Offer a settlement amount
“I want to offer you a settlement amount of $________ to be paid in full to close out this account. I’ve worked very hard to save this money. This is all that I can afford. Will you accept this offer?”
Ask for a payment plan
“Can I set up a payment plan? If the amount is low enough, I could pay this bill off over time.”
After the call
If the collector agrees to a settlement amount or payment plan you can afford, make sure to get what they’ve agreed to confirmed in writing. After you pay, get proof that the debt is resolved.
If the debt collector does not agree to an amount you can afford, try these strategies:
- If no interest is accruing and/or the collector says they will not sue, you might consider paying other bills first. Pay this bill when you can afford to.
- If you can save extra money over the next few months (especially if interest is not building), plan to call again and try another settlement conversation when you have more money to offer.
- If the debt will or might get transferred to another collector, think about waiting to see if the next collector is willing to negotiate. Please note: This approach can be risky. There is always the chance that the next debt collector will be more aggressive about accruing interest, reporting your debt to a credit bureau, or suing.