If you have a medical bill that you are struggling to pay and worry about what will happen to you if you can’t pay it, I’m here to answer that question for you. Medical bills are unwanted and stressful. They can make you worry about where you will get the money to pay for them.

Unlike credit card debt or auto loans, medical bills are often unavoidable. If you are your child need emergency care, you have no choice but to accept treatment. That treatment can often come at a hefty price.

Millions of Americans are taken by surprise each year when their medical bills come in the mail. The amounts on those bills are often much larger than anticipated. Some people have the ability to pay the medical bills, but a large percentage of those who do not have the money available to pay them.

When you don’t have the money to pay your medical bills, and you have exhausted all options such as payment plans, personal loans, medical credit cards, and asking family and friends, that is when the stress, worry, and dread really begin to set in. Debt collectors constantly calling, sleepless nights, anxiety, and fear can take over your life.

What will happen if I can’t pay my medical bills? Can I be arrested for not paying them? Can I serve jail time? I’m here to answer your questions and help put your mind at ease.

Medical Debt Collections

If you don’t pay your medical bills, eventually, the hospital or your medical provider will sell your debt to a collection agency. They usually sell this debt for pennies on the dollar. There is a chance that you can negotiate with the debt collector and pay your debt off for less than you owe. It doesn’t always work, but it is worth a try.

This is when those debt collectors start calling. They can be annoying and make your worry increase.

As soon as your medical bills go to collections, it immediately shows up on your credit report. This can be harmful to your credit score, and the longer it goes unpaid, the more it will make your score tank.

Lawsuits for Medical Bills

If collection agencies aren’t able to get the money out of you, they will take legal action. This is the final phase of debt collection. Your medical provider or the debt collector can sue you for your unpaid debt.

If your case goes to court, a judge could order wage garnishment. Money could immediately be taken out of your paycheck each week before it even gets to you.


Thankfully, you cannot go to jail for unpaid medical bills. By law, you cannot go to jail for not paying civil debts. Of course, this same protection doesn’t exist for not paying taxes.

If you don’t have the income to be garnished, like talked about earlier, the debt collection agency can request the court to ask you to appear for the debtor’s examination. If you do not appear, the judge can issue a warrant for your arrest.

Don’t get it twisted. You will not go to jail for unpaid medical debt. But you will go to jail for ignoring a court order.

Look into Other Options

If you can’t pay your medical bills, things can look dire. Make sure you research and inspect your medical bill. Talk to your insurance company. Meet with your medical provider.

Do everything you can to negotiate the debt and get it paid. Look into payment plans, medical credit cards, and ask family and friends for advice.

You can even hire a professional to help. A knowledgeable consumer rights attorney can help. The bottom line is that you will have to pay the medical bills eventually. Do everything in your power to pay it sooner rather than later. It will save a lot of stress and worry for you if you do.