Unexpected medical bills can place a serious strain on your finances. In a tracking poll by Keiser Health, they found that of those surveyed, 45% mentioned they would have trouble paying a surprise medical bill of $500. That said, there are many avenues available to assist you in repaying medical bills. When you do encounter these surprise expenses, here are some steps to take:
Ask the Hospital or Doctor for an Itemized Bill
Ever get a hospital bill in the mail but have no idea how they come to the charges they did? This is why it’s important to ask for an itemized accounting of all expenses. Doing this allows you to verify you received all the services they billed you for. And on the off chance they misapplied charges, it gives you the opportunity to contest them. How do you contest them? A good place to start is the financial department of the doctor’s office or hospital that furnished the bill. Often, they can go over the bill with you, helping you to make sense of everything. Moreover, they’ll be the ones who can investigate erroneous charges. This is important to when you consider that as many as 80% of hospital bills could contain billing errors. With this in mind, a second look could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Investigate Financial Aid Options
Some hospitals have programs in place to help reduce your surprise medical bill. To find out if any programs are available to you, contact the billing office. They will go over the programs with you and how the application process works. In some cases, you might pay for a percentage of your expenses based on your income. If you qualify for this incentive, make sure to furnish all documentation they require in a timely manner. And don’t be surprised if you have to follow up with them.
Negotiate a Lower Bill
Another option for lowering cost is to offer a settlement. The last thing hospitals and doctor’s offices want to do is chase you around for a debt; that’s why many sell bad debts to collection agencies. When you negotiate a debt, be upfront and honest about your financial situation, outlining how much you make, your monthly expenses, and how this debt set you back. In some instances, they offer discounts (normally specified in percentages) if you pay the balance due in cash.
Make Monthly Payments
If you exhausted other options or don’t have the money for a cash settlement, you can see if they will allow you to make monthly payments. While you’ll have to pay the full balance due, this is a more manageable way of paying off the debt back in small payments instead of zeroing out your bank account. In all cases, it’s important to be proactive when you receive a surprise medical bill. The quicker you go to work finding a solution, the more time you’ll have to find the one that works for you.
Along with building a plan for surprise medical expenses, it’s a good idea to have your insurance policies reviewed so you can feel confident you’re receiving the protection you deserve. Contact a Cole Harrison independent agent to receive a fresh perspective.