DEAR HARRIETTE: I have had several medical challenges this year that have taken me to the hospital. Nothing was earth-shattering, but I now have a pile of bills from the hospital and from various doctors. I can’t afford to pay all of these bills, and I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed. I used to be afraid of bill collectors for my credit card. Now it’s medical bill collectors. What can I do to manage this? I have been avoiding them, but obviously that’s a bad idea. -- Medical Debt
DEAR MEDICAL DEBT: Just as with credit card debt, when you have mounting medical debt, you need to speak directly to your creditors. Let them know that you don’t mean to shirk your responsibility to pay your bills, but you do not have the means to pay in full at this time. Ask to establish a payment plan so that you can pay down your debt and prove that you are being responsible as you are being realistic about what you can handle financially.
Stay clear and focused when you speak to the bill collectors. Remember that their job is to recover as much money as they can. Generally, they will be willing to work with you as long as you show sincere commitment to pay the money you owe. You may also be able to negotiate a bit if you can prove financial hardship.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)