Overwhelming medical bills can often be the result of a single unexpected, medical emergency and take years to pay off. Even if you have health insurance coverage – deductibles, prescriptions and co-payments can be substantial. But if you’re one of the approximately 50 million Americans without health insurance, an extended hospital stay could easily cost you more than 1 million dollars. And if you’re unable to pay the bill, you’re at an even higher risk of being one of the nearly 60% of personal bankruptcies caused by medical bills in the U.S., according to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine.
Although it can be intimidating to negotiate with your doctor for lower bills, doing so can save you money. Insurance companies know how to lower their bills by as much as 95%. For consumers to get this same help they will need to know how the system works.
Deal Directly to the Source
The most obvious, and perhaps the most important step, is to address your concerns to your doctor. Be proactive about your treatment and ask for options to improve your health and whether a procedure can be postponed. Billing personnel are knowledgeable about discounts for under or uninsured patients. Be honest about your employment situation and changes to your insurance coverage.
Pay for your doctor’s services whenever possible in cash. Your medical provider will save money with the elimination of insurance billing and paperwork and may offer you an upfront discount. Ask the hospitals or medical center, if they offer discounts for advanced or early payment.
Resolve Billing Errors
Inspect every bill you receive. It’s been estimated that 90% of all medical bills include overcharges to the tune of 10 billion dollars annually. If you will be paying part of your medical expenses, either as a deductible or a co-payment, overcharges will come out of your pocket.
Read your bills carefully, comparing them against the care you received, your own personal records and the insurance company’s explanation of benefits (EOB), an important document that tells how much your insurance company is being charged and what you may owe. Don’t accept a generic billing statement but demand an itemized list, required by all in every state. If you find errors, call the billing department and your insurer to resolve the issue. If you don’t get results, send your appeal to the hospital administrator.
Negotiate on Your Behalf
Medical providers are often willing to work with you directly to assist you with your outstanding medical bills. Collecting some of the debt is better than collecting none at all. Contact your doctor or hospital billing department and see if you can work out a payment plan. Explain your situation in detail and see what kind of assistance is available. Many healthcare providers have special programs to assist people without medical coverage and they may even be willing to reduce some of the bills if you can make timely payments.
Seek Financial Help
Debt consolidation services are available to help when you want to make good on all of your debt obligations but need a hand getting organized. If you are unsuccessful getting your medical bills and general living expenses in order, consider debt consolidation as a possible solution.
* Out-of-control medical bills? Debt settlement may be an option…