Find tips and advice from doctors and other medical professionals on the best way to get help with paying hospital bills. You can negotiate bills, use charity programs, and ask for discounts or reduced rates for your surgery or other health care needs.
Since medical bills are notorious for having errors, the first thing you need to do is closely review your hospital bill for errors. They can include double charges, medicines or treatments you didn't receive, etc. A wide variety of errors can be made, most of which are accidental. Some studies say almost 90% of bills have errors, but most people don't know or bother to review them. Spending several minutes on this process can save patients a significant amount of money. In addition to the hospital bills, check your doctor's bill for errors. Read about more ways to find billing errors.
The second step to take is to determine if there's a financial counselor based at the hospital. Most do have counselors on site. If you speak to them and go over your hardship, many medical providers will often negotiate the charges. This is even more so if you are using a large hospital system that normally serves indigent patients. These hospitals often get grants and funds from the state and federal government to help make up the shortfall in any bills and unpaid hospital debts. As part of that funding process, many locations are required by law to work with consumers and offer them payment plans.
In addition, you can negotiate directly with the doctor. Many physicians negotiate as well, especially if they know you do not have health insurance. Be up front with your doctor, and go over your situation, and find out if he or she will accept a lower payment on your bills or debts. What is becoming more common is doctors accepting the same amount for payment as they would have received from an insurance company if you had insurance. Insurance companies have pre-agreed upon rates for almost all services and procedures with health care providers (sometimes as low as 50% of the medical bill) and the doctor may accept the same amount from you as well.
Keep in mind that doctors and hospitals will not typically charge interest. Most are much easier to work with than other creditors. For example, almost every single doctor and hospital will leave you alone as long and they will not generally initiate debt collection procedures as long as you are making regular monthly payments on your hospital bills, even if those payments are only $20 or $30. It is critical to make those payments regularly. This in effects let them know what you can afford to pay on your bills every month, and they will more than likely not pursue you if you make regular payments.
Unfortunately, many patients in today’s weak economy do not have full health insurance. Almost all hospitals offer financial assistance and provide financial hardship programs in these cases. It is critical to ask for help as soon as possible. At the very least, the programs that hospitals offer can provide patients with a generous pay back schedule. After all, remember that they want to get paid as well, and would rather get some cash than see the patient file for bankruptcy or default on their bills.
Also, many individuals and families without health insurance will qualify for free care, charity programs, or other types of financial aid. If you ask, we have seen many underinsured or uninsured people qualify for reductions in their bills ranging from anywhere from 50-75%. Check with the financial assistance or billing department at your hospital as they will know the details on what is available in your local area.
There are several tips for patients who want to negotiate their medical and hospital bills. Many professionals assure us that medical providers, doctors, physicians, and hospitals can, and will almost always negotiate charges. It goes back to the fact that they would rather get paid something by you, and they do not want to turn the unpaid bill over to a medical debt collection agency. They definitely do not want to see consumers default, as then they need to “write” the charges (a.k.a. revenue) off.
When negotiating, it is best to be open and honest. Explain your financial situation, and it can’t do any harm to offer them a very reduced amount, say 25%. This person says that you should not expect to pay less than 50% of your unpaid bill, but you can try to offer a very low amount. It is most common to see them offer a discount to 2/3 of the bills. Also, learn how professionals can help settle your medical debts.
They will always say to make any type of consistent, and reasonable, payments on your account. Talk to the hospital, and agree on what those payments should be. Your monthly payment needs to be proportional to the amount of medical debt. So if you owe 100K, you can’t pay $10 per month. If you agree on payments, and make them every month, and do not miss a month, they will probably waive interest and won’t pursue debt collection.
What also occurs very often is a hospital will provide a patient with a discount on their account for paying the debts and bill off in full. You can pay it off in full at some future, agreed upon date. It does not need to be immediately.
If you agree upon a schedule, do everything you can to honor the schedule and payment plan. If you even think you are going to be late or can only make a partial payment in a certain month, call the billing department and tell them in advance. They will work with you, as long as you communicate.
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