One of the main reasons why Americans file for bankruptcy or go through foreclosure involves accumulating huge amounts of medical bills. Healthcare costs can be staggering and unexpected, and it is often hard to understand how the system works. Even people who have health insurance may not be free from this concern. Since many people get insurance through their employer, job loss can play a role in medical debt. Some states have helped protect the financial stability of patients by placing caps on hospital bills, but most states have not passed these laws.
Making the problem worse, the vast majority of hospital bills contain overcharges, which may amount to thousands of dollars. You should carefully review any medical bill that you receive so that you can dispute an inaccurate or inflated charge. You can request an invoice that breaks down each item of cost claimed by a doctor or hospital. If you find charges that are much higher than common industry rates for those services, or if you find duplicate charges, you can contest them. If you do not understand items on the invoice, you can make a note about these items and ask the doctor, the hospital, or their billing office for an explanation.
Negotiating Medical Bills
Providers are often willing to negotiate payment plans with patients, rather than sending the debt to collections.
Even if the items on a medical bill are legitimate, a patient may be able to negotiate payments with their healthcare provider if they cannot pay the full amount at once. It is important to take a proactive approach in these cases so that the bill does not get transferred to collections. Collection agencies can be much more aggressive than medical providers and less willing to negotiate. Instead, you can ask the doctor or hospital for a discount while explaining how much you are able to pay. This may satisfy a healthcare provider because the difference between the billed amount and the amount that you can pay may not be worth taking formal steps to pursue.
Sometimes patients are unable to pay a bill as a lump sum but may be able to make payments over time. You may be able to set up a payment plan with a healthcare provider that allows you to pay the bill in installments. You should make sure to put the terms of the plan in writing. If you will be expected to pay interest, you should clarify the interest rate. A patient’s circumstances may change during the course of the payment plan, at which point they can contact the healthcare provider again and ask to alter the plan.
Also, if you can make a substantial down payment right away, this may help you negotiate a discount on the total amount due. Many healthcare providers appreciate the certainty of getting some money upfront.
Should the Care Have Been Covered?
If an insured patient’s final bill is larger than expected, they may also want to review the terms of their health insurance coverage to determine whether they should file a dispute with their insurer.