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Finding grants to pay medical bills is a great way to stay on top of mounting expenses when you have a sick or disabled loved one. Researching and applying for grants takes time, plus you have to manage the reimbursements or payments later.
Over the last 6 years, I have spent literal weeks of my time trying to find ways to afford my daughter’s medical expenses. I deal with our health insurance company, multiple medical providers, and the various grants that may be able to help.
Know that it’s not an easy process. You need to be organized and persistent, but it is possible to reduce your out-of-pocket costs for medical treatments.
If you can afford the expenses, please pay your bills and leave grants for those who are less fortunate. On the other hand, there’s no shame in seeking assistance when it’s needed.
According to a 2019 study, over 500,000 bankruptcy cases were filed due to medical bills. I’m sure that number will increase in the aftermath of COVID19. Applying for grants to pay medical bills might not be enough to stave off bankruptcy, but assistance is an option for a lot of people.
There are ways to make medical care more affordable, especially mental health or medical equipment. Often, though, you’ll just have to pay the amount you’re charged.
Don’t give up yet.
Start searching for grants to pay medical bills early
Some grants are only offered before the cost is incurred. That means you have to plan ahead enough to allow for processing time when applying, plus you need to understand how the specific grant works.
I know it’s not always possible to plan ahead medically, but it pays off when you can do so. Start looking for financial assistance as soon as a scheduled surgery is booked, to ensure you have time to get everything done.
Use your health insurance first
Assuming you have health insurance, always use your health insurance first. When beginning the process of making a big medical purchase, contact your health insurance company first.
Simply getting a preauthorization may be enough to ensure coverage, but skipping that step will likely result in a denied claim.
Work with your medical provider’s office too, and go out of your way to be friendly and kind to the office staff. They’re the ones who are doing all the work to get the bills covered.
When an initial insurance claim is denied, appeal it following your health insurance provider’s process. Make sure to pay attention to deadlines too!
Even if that appeal is denied, appeal again. Request documentation from the insurance company regarding benefits for the specific purchase you’re seeking coverage for, then repeat their own words back to them in your appeal. Show how the policy applies to your situation.
Dealing with health insurance denials can be a long and arduous process, so go into it prepared for a long fight. I hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the ease of your experience but expect the worst. For-profit companies don’t want to spend more than they have to.
Look for grants to pay medical bills
There are many nonprofits that offer assistance for medical expenses, but finding them will take some research on your part.
If you’re looking for funding for a child, make sure to include “pediatric” in the search. I’ve found many options for grants to pay pediatric medical bills, but adult medical bills seem more difficult to cover. Children and the elderly seem to be well-covered by government programs and charities, but younger and middle-aged adults are not so lucky.
Use state-specific grants to pay medical bills
Utilizing grants that are specific to your state or town to pay medical bills increases your chances of a successful application since the applicant pool is smaller.
Start with a Google search
You may need to try out a variety of search words, but eventually, you’ll find something.
Try the following search terms, paired with your state’s name:
- Grants for medical bills
- Funding for medical bills
- How to pay for medical bills
- Medical financial assistance
- Financial assistance for medical bills
- Assistance for medical bills
- Medical nonprofit
- Pediatric/elderly medical assistance
- Pediatric/elderly assistance with medical bills
Check the website for your state’s department of health
The exact name of the department may vary, but for example, Montana’s is called the Department of Public Health & Human Services.
State-sponsored programs should be listed there, or you can call the department and ask for assistance. Assistance programs vary from state to state; with any luck, you’ll reach a helpful & knowledgeable employee.
In my experience, state departments are hit or miss. Some are staffed by passionate, knowledgeable people who just want to help; other departments employ people who are just going through the motions.
Ask local organizations about grants to pay medical bills
Due to my daughter’s diagnoses, she qualified for Part C, the government-sponsored birth to 3 assistance program. In our state, it isn’t a robust program, but her caseworkers were able to connect me with grants over the years.
Local nonprofits may also offer grants to pay medical bills or have connections to a group that could help you. I’ve applied to more than one state-specific grant offered by nonprofits in my area.
Smaller organizations usually offer smaller grants, but anything helps when you’re facing large medical bills.
Search for diagnosis-specific grants
With a smaller applicant pool, you have a better chance of receiving a grant.
Find the diagnosis’s website
Start your search for a grant to pay medical bills by looking for a foundation or association just for your diagnosis. Most of the more common diagnoses, and many of the less common ones, have some sort of nonprofit organization dedicated to research, outreach, and education.
Start with that foundation or association. Try to find a portion of their website with names like “get help,” “participate,” “apply now,” or something similar.
Not every foundation offers grants to pay medical bills, but they may have an outreach coordinator who can help find a funding source.
Search Charity Navigator for grants to pay medical bills
Charity Navigator has a searchable database of nonprofits. You can use it to find an organization related to the specific diagnosis or treatment/equipment you have. This resource can cut hours off of your research process.
Research federal assistance
Don’t get your hopes up for receiving federal assistance to pay medical bills, but definitely start the process if you’re facing a chronic diagnosis.
USA Grant Applications
USA Grant Applications can connect you to potential grants to help pay medical bills. It also lists business, housing, and education grants, so it’s a great place to start the search.
I haven’t personally used this website, but it looks pretty comprehensive and helpful.
It can take years, and multiple applications, to receive Social Security disability benefits. There are complex, nonsensical rules you need to follow. Sometimes, applicants even involve a lawyer to assist.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is for those who have worked and paid enough into the system. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) supports people with disabilities who haven’t paid in enough (or at all).
Medicaid is the government-provided “health insurance” for lower-income or disabled younger people. It’s administered by each state, so you’ll have to contact your state department of health to see if you qualify and how to apply.
Medicare is the government-provided “health insurance” for people over 65 or disabled younger people.
The US Department of Veteran Affairs administers medical benefits for qualified veterans. There are more restrictions on which providers you can see, but if you qualify you should at least look into VA healthcare. I would hope it’s affordable and qualified.
Remember to set up your tech while searching for grants to pay bills
I highly recommend investing in a PDF writer/creator software product to streamline the process a bit. I use Adobe Acrobat DC for my business, so I also use it for personal reasons. Submitting everything as one PDF keeps things organized.
I keep all those digital files in Google Drive, with a hierarchy of folders. Organization is key to finding documents later. Giving documents descriptive and dated names also helps a lot. I usually name documents with the date first, then a detailed description.
For example, I would call an EOB from June 2021 “21.06 Provider EOB for PT.” This format allows me to sort by date or search for specific keywords.
If you don’t have access to a scanner or fax, don’t worry. There are many free scanning apps for smartphones. Once you have created a PDF, you can fax it for free using a website like Fax Zero.
Make sure to pay attention to the requirements for the grant you’re applying for. If it requires a fax and you send a letter, you’ll be rejected. Emailing a Word document instead of PDF might get your application deleted.
Bonus Tip: talk to your provider’s billing department
Although not technically a grant to pay medical bills, many hospitals and clinics offer financial assistance. The process and requirements vary from provider to provider, so you’ll need to call the billing department at your doctor’s office.
Questions to ask about financial assistance
- Do you offer a cash payment discount? (if you have the money in the bank & can get a discount, do it!)
- Is my account eligible for assistance?
- Does the application have income limits?
- Are there residency requirements?
- What can I expect if I am approved for assistance? (a payment plan, percent off the balance, access to grant funds?)
Since we live in a rural state, we drive out of state for most of my daughter’s specialist appointments. After she had a couple of procedures, hospital stays & appointments in one year, I applied for financial assistance with the hospital.
After gathering all of the information, filling out the application & submitting everything, I was denied because we don’t live in the same state as the hospital. My bad for not asking initially, but knowing that would have saved me hours!
Ask about payment plans
If you don’t qualify for assistance or don’t want to apply, at least ask about setting up a payment plan. Most hospitals will let you make small payments at 0% interest for long stretches of time.
Obviously, it’s best to pay off your debts as soon as you can. When things are tight, paying $25 per month toward a huge medical bill will keep you from being sent to collections. Protect your credit score and ease your cash flow problems by starting that conversation.
Do you have a favorite grant to pay medical bills?
I’ve had good luck with the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation grants for my daughter!
Help With Bills (includes assistance information for utilities, rent, etc. too)