(WHTM) — Medical debt is a problem that affects millions of people. Health care bills can be confusing, and getting help to figure them out can be hard, but there are some things patients should know before they pay.

The problem of medical debt in America is significant. “About 100 million people currently have some kind of health care debt from a medical bill or a dental bill that they couldn’t pay or that they’ve had to finance in some way,” Kaiser Health News Senior Correspondent Noam Levey said.

“More than half of all adults have been in debt because of health care over the last five years,” Levey also noted.

An investigation by Kaiser Health News and National Public Radio showed that about a quarter of people who have medical debt owe more than $5,000, and 1 in 8 people owes more than $10,000.

Experts have some advice for people who have medical bills. First, they say not to pay a bill from a hospital or health care provider right away.

“Make sure that it has gone through the insurance process, make sure the insurance company has paid all that they are going to pay before you start paying your portion,” Levey said.

Additionally, Levey said to ask for an itemized bill that lists and explains all the charges. Patients should review their bills carefully to make sure they received the care for which they are being charged. Some experts say as many as half of all medical bills have at least one error.

If people have a bill from a hospital and are having trouble paying, they should ask about getting financial help. Levey said, “Many hospitals have financial assistance programs that are designed to help people with lower incomes.”

People can negotiate, as well, Levey added. “Hospitals want to get some money. So if you as a patient can’t afford the bill, it’s worth trying to negotiate with the hospital. If you get turned down the first time, it’s worth calling back because the hospital is primarily interested in getting something for the care that they’ve provided,” Levey said.

There is free help available, as well. Medicare patients can reach out to the Medicare Rights Center, or the State Health Insurance Assitance Program can help. The Patient Advocate Foundation also provides advice for understanding and negotiating medical bills.