Being sick or getting hurt can be stressful and painful all by itself. But once the medical bills begin to roll in you quickly begin to feel even worse. If you are fortunate then you have some type of medical insurance to cover a part of the cost.
But many consumers have very little insurance or they have coverage that really doesn’t pay for much of anything.
That leaves them trying to recover as well as trying to find a way to pay the huge bills that are piling up.
Recent stories in the news are giving examples such as a man in New York who received almost $200,000 in medical bills for a 6 day stay in the hospital after a heart attack and a woman who was being billed $19,000 a week for her cancer treatment.
It is inconceivable to think that anyone would have the resources to pay such astronomical medical bills.
But there are some tips for anyone who is facing medical bill problems which might assist with having them reduced to more manageable amounts.
Double Check Your Bill
After a stay in the hospital or a procedure even in an outpatient facility, you will find that you are getting dozens of bills in the mail. You will have one from the facility, one from the doctor, maybe on from a doctor who assisted, one from the lab and one from an anesthesiologist. In short, the list can go on and on. But what you need to do is read each line item on each bill to be certain that there are no duplicates and that all of the items actual pertain to you, your stay and your procedure. Billing errors happen all the time and if you don’t verify each item then you could be paying for a service that you did not even receive. If you find an error or an item that you don’t understand then call the billing department and request that they explain and or verify the item.
Know The Real Costs
Many consumers are not aware that insurance companies negotiate rates with medical care providers. The provider might send a bill to an insurance company for $20,000 for a specific procedure but then the insurance company responds with the amount that they are willing to pay for the procedure. Normally the insurance company pays less than half of the original amount billed and many times closer to only 25%. And almost always the medical provider accepts the lower payment as payment in full. Most major insurance companies have standard rates that they will pay and this information be found on their website or from a customer service representative. Websites such as Blue Book, Vimo, and New Choice Health can also be useful in figuring out the actual going rate for a medical procedure. When you review this information you will find that the negotiated national average price, which is the discounted price that an insurer pays, averages about 30% of the retail cost. Knowing this information will allow you to better understand the level of discount that you can request from a medical service provider and can greatly help in getting that huge medical bill reduce to a reasonable and manageable amount.
Know How to Negotiate with a Hospital
If you have already received medical care and you are getting bills that are simply too large to pay then you will want to call and talk to the billing department. And the sooner you call them the better. Their goal is to collect as quickly as they can for services provided and then write off the rest. Sending patients to collections rarely gets them full payment and it can take years to get even a small portion of the bill collected. They benefit more by writing off the service as a loss in the year that they provide the service. The first offer that you will normally hear is a reduction of 10-20%, but understand that 80% of the current bill is far more than the hospital would get from an insurance provider. Counter offer to pay 30% or maybe even 40% of the bill in cash within 30 days and ask if the hospital will accept that as payment in full. If they decline then ask to speak to the billing manager to repeat the offer. When you do negotiate an alternative payment, be sure to write down the name and title of the person you are speaking to and request that they immediately email you an amended invoice for your records.
Once you have negotiated as far as the care provider go, you still might not be able to pay the bill in full. Hospitals especially, normally offer payment plans with no interest. This can be a huge help in getting the bill paid off as quickly as possible. In most cases, you will be able to set the payment amount yourself just by telling the hospital how much you can afford to pay on a monthly basis. And once you begin making those payments then they cannot pursue any other collections action against you.
Find An Advocate
It is no secret that medical billing and coding is complex and confusing. If you feel that you are being over billed or that your bill is incorrect or excessive then you will want to work with an advocate to have them assist you in sorting out your bills. The Access Project provides free coaching and can assist you in negotiating with hospitals and medical service providers regarding medical bill problems. You need to focus on recovering and getting healthy and the stress of huge medical bills can greatly hinder your ability to relax and heal. So be sure to understand your options for negotiating and for making payments on your medical debt. And seek the assistance of a trained professional if you are not getting the cooperation that you need from a medical service provider when you are trying to settle medical bill problems.