Find help paying your hospital bills.

There are several assistance programs for hospital bills. They include government benefits, financial aid from charities, support from hospital billing offices, free charity care, and much more. The resources are for low to moderate income families, the elderly, uninsured, and others who are struggling. In addition, you may very well be able to eliminate or negotiate down your hospital bills to a more manageable amount. Here are several tips and ways in which patents can get assistance.

Hospital bill assistance from government programs

Determine whether you qualify for government help, charity or discounts. Many hospitals will have financial counselors who will be glad to review your financial situation and they will then check whether you qualify for any assistance. You may be able to get help with your hospital bill from the hospital itself, government assistance programs, or charities. All of these options will be explored.

You can pursue this approach even if your medical debt has already been sent for collections. If the bill has gone for collections, make sure that the debt collectors get a copy of your application for assistance so that they are on notice that you're in financial straits.

One of the downsides to this is that you may need to negotiate directly with specialists, doctors, or other medical service providers who may bill you separately. The reason being that hospital charity programs may not cover their services, and the willingness of these parties to discount their services may vary.

Federal government patient protections are available. If you do not have health insurance or have lost your job, be sure to ask your financial-services office or doctor's office for information about qualifying for a 65 percent reduction in your hospital bills. This benefit is a result of the COBRA health-insurance premiums government assistance plan.

 

 

 

 

Federal Government Medicare Help Line can provide assistance and is an option for senior citizens and the disabled. Call (800) 633-4227 for questions on your hospital bills. The service is for a stay that was covered by Medicare. The staff at the help line can detect errors or fraud, provide information on options for consumers and more. Call to find what they can offer you.

Free health care from the Hill-Burton Act. This is a federal government regulation that ensures that hospitals and medical providers across the nation provide free or discounted health care to low income families as well as the working poor. Most hospitals receive some type of federal aid or grants, and in return for that federal government assistance, they need to offer local individuals health care that they can afford to pay. More on free hospital stays from Hill-Burton.

Government certified non-profit credit counseling agencies can help with unpaid hospital bills. the organizations work with consumers and patients to go over their debts and bills, including medical. The counselors work with hospital billing offices, surgeons, and doctors to settle debts, help patients enter into payment plans, and find other solutions. More on credit counseling agencies hospital debt assistance.

 

 

 

 

Additional ways to get help with hospital bills or debts

The hospital bill may be inflated. Unfortunately, hospitals typically charge uninsured patients far more for medical services provided to them and their stay than the lower, discounted prices that are provided to health insurance companies and government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. The medical bill for prescription drugs, rooms, and medical care for an uninsured individual can be two or three times higher than the price paid by insurers. This is according to the National Consumer Law Center.

This being the case, you need to ask the hospital to charge you the same prices it charges patients who are on Medicaid, Medicare, or its biggest health insurance customer. If you are comfortable is asking for these lower rates, then there are professionals that can help negotiate. Studies show that medical bill negotiation can have up to a 90% success rate.

After this process has been complete, if the resulting bill after negotiation is manageable, you can go on to work out a payment plan with the hospital. Always be sure to get a written copy of your agreement before you start payments on the hospital bill so that the hospital can't later claim there was a mistake or that the amounts you paid were not correct or inadequate. If the negotiated bill is still too high, you can always turn to a medical billing advocate to help find errors, review health insurance policies and/or negotiate a lower medical bill. Advocates offer several services.

Check your hospital bill for errors. Medical bills, and also hospital bills, are notorious for having errors on them. Some estimates say that up to 90% of hospital bills will have a mistake. You can be charged for prescription drugs that you never took. You may be charged for a full day of medical care when you checked out in the morning, or you even may have been charged twice for a single procedure. Unfortunately you will not able to find these mistakes from the basic summary of the hospital bill that's typically sent to patients. To get the detail on your hospital bill, you need to ask for three documents, of which you're entitled to.

  • A copy of your medical chart.
  • An itemized copy of your hospital bill.
  • The copy of your pharmacy ledger that will show the prescription drugs that you were given during your stay.

 

 

 

You then need to compare your ledger and chart to the itemized hospital bill to see if there are any discrepancies. Be sure to also look for charges that are the result of a hospital error, such as an X-ray that had to be redone because a technician goofed. You do not have to pay for someone else's mistakes.

This process can be complicated and is not always very easy to do. Therefore if you need help reviewing the hospital bill, medical billing advocates can help.

Prepay a portion of your hospital bill for discounts. Among the many financing and assistance plans that hospitals offer, most will allow you to pay either all or a portion of your bill and receive a significant discount. Discounts can rage from 25-70%, and the payment period can even go longer than a year to receive the discount. Find out how prepaying a hospital bill can provide you a discount and help your situation.

The hospital bill needs to be itemized. You do not need to accept hospital bills that use terms like “miscellaneous fees," or "lab fees." Demand an itemized hospital bill. it should show every single charge, and the detail behind it. If you don't get satisfaction from the hospital billing department (and chances are that you probably won't) you should appeal in writing to the hospital administrator or patient ombudsman.

Fraud detection of hospital bills is available. Some resources, such as the Senior Medicare Patrol, focus on meeting the needs of people over 55 and the elderly. This is a non-profit program that can assist with detecting hospital billing errors, fraud, and address a number of other issues. More on Senior Medicare Patrol.

No other options. If you are completely out of options, and have no other means to get help, you can always consider bankruptcy. If you can't pay your hospital bill in three to six years timeframe, or if debt collectors are threatening to put a lien on your house, or garnishee your wages, then a bankruptcy filing may be the best of the bad options left to you.

There are multiple types of bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 liquidation will allow you to eliminate unsecured medical debts such as credit card balances and medical bills. A Chapter 13 filing, which also involves a repayment plan, will require you to repay some of your medical debt over the next five years and erase any remaining medical bills after you completed the plan. A bankruptcy lawyer can review your personal financial and life situation and describe your options.

 

 

 

 

If you do decide on the bankruptcy approach, never file prematurely. For example, if you are likely to incur additional medical bills, you may want to delay a bankruptcy filing until the worst is over because you are allowed to file only one Chapter 7 bankruptcy case every eight years. If you do decide to file for bankruptcy to help discharge your medical bills and hospital debt, and then wind up incurring more hospital bills, you may face eight long years of collection actions before you can file again.

Ensure your insurance company pays for the entire hospital bill. There are times when a health care company either denies a claim or they pay a small portion of what is shown that is due on the statement. Or they delay payment or push some of the debts onto the patient. If and when this happens, consumers have the right to file an appeal. Each state requires this service to be available for paying hospital expenses as well. Find how to appeal an insurance claim.

Some hospitals are creating assistance plans for their patients. They are local and statewide. These plans can provide charity care, savings on medical bills, and other resources that provide assistance. Find local hospital bill assistance programs.

Settle your hospital bills and debts: Most hospitals are willing to work with patients to reduce their outstanding debt if they can’t pay it. Or they offer payment plans. One of the main reasons that this is a possibility is because hospitals would rather not sue a patient. It is bad publicity, and often times not worth the expense to them. Find how to settle your medical debts.

If your hospital has given you medications, or recommends them, then apply for assistance from prescription drug assistance programs. There are dozens of free and discounted services. Review programs to see if you can get lower drug prices or free medicines. While it may depend on your income or insurance status, name-brand pharmaceutical companies offer a variety of programs. Find how to get free prescription drugs.

Employer health advocates services provide information to patients that use a hospital. Some mid to large size employers provide advocates who can provide help to employees. This will help reduce the businesses total insurance premiums, especially when it comes to renewing a policy. They will offer you information and resources on everything medical and hospital related. Look into whether you employer offers this service or not as part of the healthcare benefits or health insurance plans they have in place.

Get assistance directly from the hospital and suggestions from employees. We have information on what employees from the billing office, doctors, and other medical professionals recommend. There are several things they will suggest to either get help or save money, including the following.

Before you are admitted, ask if you qualify for any charity care programs they may offer. Also inquire into government programs or any other discounted services for your hospital stay or surgery. The billing department will recommend this. If offered, ask for this help, especially if you're uninsured. However if your income is low enough many hospitals may offer assistance to patients that are insured and/or employed.

 

 

 

 

Employees also say if you can’t ask before your hospital visit look for the phone number for the billing department, as they can answer questions after the fact. The contact information will normally will be on the back of your hospital statement. Or if you can’t find the number, you can always just call the main switchboard number and ask for the billing office, financial services, an advocate, or a patient representative. Find a list of other suggestions from hospitals on saving money.

By Jon McNamara

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