How to Deal with High Medical Bills
You should always have a plan in place for dealing with unexpected medical bills. Here are some tips.
Updated on Apr 24 2020
Medical bills can be one of your most costly expenses, and this is true at any age. You can end up incurring extremely high costs, sometimes just when running simple tests. Because of this, you should always have a plan in place for dealing with unexpected medical bills. It’s an unfortunate fact that over half of bankruptcies in Americaare at least in part due to a high medical expense. This is why you should always remain prepared for medical challenges, especially during these difficult times.
Too often folks put off paying their expensive medical bills, simply hoping something will change with their situation. When bills have gone unpaid for quite some time, hospitals will sell these debts to collections agencies. Once your debt goes into collections, you’ll need to take care of it to avoid court. But, it’s better still to avoid collections in the first place. This is why we always recommend setting money aside for emergency medical expenses, even if you feel confident in your health insurance coverage. Health insurance is extremely important, and a good plan can help you avoid these unfortunate situations. But, healthcare is expensive, and even the best insurance will not provide perfect coverage. So, you should always have an emergency fund prepared. If you’re unsure about how to get started, you can always consult a financial advisor.
Be sure your bill is accurate
After receiving a medical bill, you’ll always want to be sure that it’s entirely accurate. Take a look at the bill and check what was charged, and for how much. While they can be rare, hospitals do make mistakes when billing. This could mean that the cost for a procedure performed on you was misprinted, or that you’re being billed for an entirely different expense. If your bill is not itemized, meaning you can’t see each individual charge, you have the right to ask for an itemized bill. In these cases, you’ll want to immediately contact the hospital if you find a discrepancy.
Oftentimes we’re expecting insurance to cover the bulk of our medical bills. This can make it a harsh surprise to learn that your recent surgery or test has not been covered by your insurance. The first thing you’ll want to do is review your plan to ensure that this cost should indeed be covered by your insurance. Once you’ve confirmed this, you should immediately call your insurance provider and make them aware of the mistake. While the issue may not be resolved instantly, you must stick with it to ensure that you aren’t charged incorrectly.
Discuss a payment plan
Medical bills can be unavoidable and quite costly. If you’re stuck with high costs you cannot afford after confirming your bill and dealing with insurance, you may want to negotiate a plan for payment with your hospital. In some situations, hospitals are legally required to provide you with financial assistance. If the hospital where you received treatment is nonprofit, they will offer assistance to folks who cannot pay, provided their income level qualifies. The law requires nonprofit hospitals to offer this assistance to people with low-income. However, this doesn’t mean that for-profit hospitals will never have a similar program in place for helping with medical bills. While not required, it is still worth your time to check into the availability of assistance regardless of your hospital’s status. In some qualifying cases, you could see your medical bills significantly reduced. However, you should never count on this. In many cases, this assistance will simply provide you with an option to pay in installments. While this is obviously not ideal, it can still make your situation much more manageable.
Work with your insurer
While this option will not guarantee results, it may be worth exploring. Depending on your circumstances, your insurance provider may offer a one-time exception. If they agree, your insurer could cover this single medical bill cost at a higher rate. This could be a lifesaver financially in many situations, but be thoughtful when making this request. If your insurer agrees to help, this will be the only exception they’ll make on this policy. So, be sure that your situation truly requires this help before asking for it.
Consider a cash/early discount
Sometimes, hospitals will offer a discount for an upfront cash or early payment on medical bills. If you don’t have much cash on hand, this will obviously not be an option for you. But, if you have some savings or an emergency fund, you could discuss a cash discount with your doctor or hospital billing department. You could find yourself with a reduced medical bill if you’re willing and able to pay immediately for hospital services. So, if you’re able to make this payment, be sure that you fully explore this option.
Apply for charity care
The idea of receiving charity may be initially off-putting, but these are the exact circumstances organizations have charity care funds. While you’ll need to qualify in order to receive charity care, it could essentially erase the medical bill for which you’re applying. While this may not be your favorite option, it could end up saving you from debt collections down the road, so explore it if necessary.
Staying healthy should always be a priority, but it unfortunately isn’t always possible. So, we must be prepared for medical bills as they come. And since these situations are often unpredictable, always be sure that you’re fully insured. In addition, you should always have an emergency fund ready, just in case. If you’re unsure of how to get started, speak with a financial advisor to find your direction.
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