The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) health outbreak has continued to affect the wellbeing, health, routine and lifestyles of many individuals and families in the United States and worldwide. For many people, whether they were the ones who contracted the virus or have family members, friends and co-workers who did, COVID-19 has directly or indirectly hit their ability to work and strained their finances.

Medical bills for care, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations related to the coronavirus can vary depending on how much treatment a person needs, their symptoms, their medical history before they contracted COVID-19, and their medical insurance.

Some people may have experienced layoffs, drops in paychecks and, potentially, health insurance loss. Many people experiencing such circumstances may find that their medical bills end up in collections. In such cases, it can be difficult for people to pay medical bills and expensive insurance deductibles, as well as take care of out-of-pocket expenses. Following the three tips listed below can help people take care of costly medical bills and meet their everyday needs during such a challenging time––without using up all of their savings.

1. Create a financial plan and follow a suitable budget.

When handling significant expenses like medical bills or home improvement projects and repairs, it can help to set aside a budget in advance. A budget suited to your current circumstances can help you guarantee that you’ll have emergency funds to take care of expenses when unpredictable financial situations, emergencies, and unexpected hardships occur.

Consider cutting back your spending habits and removing some bills from your budget altogether if you’re able. Furthermore, try to avoid spending too much money by buying more affordable groceries and clothes, and by looking out for sales when shopping. It can also be helpful to suspend subscriptions and services that you don’t use, or temporarily pause those that aren’t essential. These practices can help people save money during crises and continue their savings––even after health and financial crises end.

2. Be transparent with your medical care providers about your financial situation.

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Following a budget and saving your money allows you to free up more funds to pay for medical bills related and unrelated to COVID-19 and also afford care regarding other vital aspects of your health, such as your hearing ability. Amid getting tested (and treated) for COVID-19 as necessary, it’s essential that people also take care of their hearing health. With extra money saved, a person can afford to see a reputable audiologist and receive a high-quality, accurate audiology hearing test. Hearing tests and regular check-ups with an audiology professional can result in early detection of any hearing loss or other hearing problems, and superior hearing health care that can slow or prevent a hearing decline enables people of all ages to experience better hearing.

Reaching out to your medical care provider and discussing your medical needs and financial situation can be a good idea if you can’t afford such medical treatment or your existing bills. Some hospitals, doctor’s offices, and medical facilities offer payment assistance programs for eligible patients. These programs usually follow state or federally determined guidelines regarding the kinds of medical needs people can receive help with, as well as who’s eligible for such assistance.

3. Contact utility companies regarding your bills.

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Another solution for handling your medical bills, especially during the current pandemic, could be contacting utility companies to negotiate your utility bills and reaching out to creditors to negotiate other obligations. Communicating to companies that you (like countless others), have experienced economic changes amid the health crisis, could lead to a discussion in which companies inform you of hardship programs that they may have available for customers. Some companies may be actively helping their customers arrange plans for partial or late payments up until a particular time. With permission to pay your bills late or in smaller amounts could help you temporarily put most of your money toward paying medical bills.

Finances and wellbeing can vary depending on individual circumstances and factors. Still, with the help of medical professionals and certain service providers, people can pay their medical bills and care for their households in practical ways.