Do it yourself tips for paying medical bills.

Many of the resources and tips throughout this site, such as ways to settle medical debts and consolidate medical bills, can also be used to get assistance with addressing any obligations on your account. There are many steps and DIY “tricks” that patients can take to get some relief. These methods can provide patients help with paying outstanding medical bills and debt or maybe give them more time before it goes to collections. However, below are more specific ways to get help with paying and to save money on current or future medical bills. Many of these tips you should use before you even incur the health care expense.

Tip 1 - Review every bill you have received for accuracy. Unfortunately, it is very common for medical bills to have errors, some of which may be significant. Insurance companies also often make mistakes on what they determine their policy holder owes. Most people pay those “errors” and have no idea they are being overcharged.

A recent Harvard study indicated that about 80% of medical bills have at least one error. This also applies to individuals with health insurance policies. You can be overcharged for medications and procedures you received, or even charged for those you did not receive. Medical bills are very often difficult to understand, and sometimes there can be pages of itemized expenses to review. Feel free to contact the hospital or facility to obtain clarification on some of the items. Or of course call your insurance provider for clarification. Find how to locate medical billing errors.

Tip 2 - Negotiate medical bills and health care services. Consumer Reports National Research Center completed a study that indicated that only 31 percent of patients have tried to negotiate the price they are paying for a health care service. For those that did negotiate a medical bill, over 90% were successful at least once, and over a third of patients saved at least $100. Find tips for how to negotiate medical bills.

 

 

 

 

Tips 3 - If you have health insurance, contact your insurance company if you think there are portions of the medical bill that they should have begun paying. Even if there are questions in your mind, it is always a better idea to call for clarification than to just pay. When pressed by the patient, sometimes they will pay the entire medical bill. Even if they do not pay it, it is worth your time in asking them to ensure they are not responsible.

In some cases there may be procedures or medications that you can’t be billed for, or the bill was submitted too late for payment. Your insurance company will determine such things. Be sure you get a full explanation from them. Even if you were denied by the insurance company, always check with your plan, and with the company to verify. Sometimes you may need to “push” them to obtain help from them with paying your medical bills. Or contact the benefit department of your employer, as they can put added pressure on your insurer.

Tip 4 - Some hospitals will forgive a significant portion of your medical debt if you contact them early in the cycle. You need to express (and prove) your need for financial assistance. You may need to formally request help with paying your costs. You need to contact them though before things get out of hand.

There have been cases in which hospitals have waived 25-75% of peoples medical bills. You may even be able to settle your account for pennies on the dollar. While sometimes this is income dependent, they will almost always listen to hardship cases when making a determination for assistance. They will usually allow you to communicate any financial hardship you have suffered, and the hospital or facility will take them into account when figuring your forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

However, like all creditors, they will be much less likely to work with you if you wait until your bills go to collection before asking for help paying. Always remember, it never hurts to ask for assistance with a hospital bill.

Tip 5 - Use the correct medical facility. Selecting the correct place to go to for services. This will often make all the difference in the medical and insurance bills you need to pay. Most people who need attention just go straight to the emergency room when they're sick, and that really is the worst thing you can do. You always need to make sure you get the health care you need at the lowest rates. So don't start at the emergency room, where an average trip will cost you more than a $1,000 before your insurance kicks in.

First, you should consider a medical clinic within your HMO. You can call the insurance company yourself to get a list. Or look online. Or try a free medical clinic in your state. If you have one of those available, that can be a low cost or free option for you. The savings from those sites can be tremendous.

r now you can even consider a convenience care clinic, where costs are also very low. Stores such as CVS, Wal-Mart, and others often have these clinics. The cost is often usually as low as $35 before your health insurance benefit.

Then, consider going to your doctor's office if you have a more serious health problem. The co-pay you are responsible for will still be much lower there. If it's an after hours visit, or if you need immediate help, consider going to an urgent care center instead of the emergency room. It's a fraction of the cost before your health insurance benefit kicks in.

Tip 6 - If you need help with paying medical bills, contact your healthcare creditors for assistance. Ask for information on payment plans they offer. Almost all doctor's organizations and hospitals will work with you in setting up a payment plan or provide some type of so called charity care. Many will even allow you to pay a minimal monthly payment with very little, or no interest.

You should definitely take advantage of such a plan if one is offered by your creditors or hospital. However, you do need to ask if you hope to know about it. Most hospitals have an office of patient relations. Or it may be called charity care or be part of patient finance. Go meet with this representative to discuss your upcoming medical needs, and explore all of them bill paying programs they may offer.

 

 

 

Tip 7- Your kids may be able to receive free or low cost health care. Every state has some type of assistance program that will provide various types of low priced or free health coverage for children, infants, and teens whose family falls below a certain income level. As just one example, in Illinois a family that earns between $42,000 and $63,000 annually only needs to pay a $40 monthly premium for each child and a $10 co-pay for physician visits under that states medical assistance program.

Tip 8 - Online tools and websites are now being released to provide information to consumers on what certain procedures should cost and to help give consumers more information. If you know what to expect beforehand, you will be in a better position to contest your medical bills. The sites will be easy to use and are a great DIY option. Find online tools that help with medical needs.

Tip 9 - Take advantage of the free and discounted prescription drugs that are available. There are countless ways to get help with obtaining medications. Many companies, including drug companies, offer financial help for paying for these types of bills. In addition to that, a number of local governments offer free discount cards that can help you save up to 40% on generic drugs.

Other options include pharmaceutical companies that often have assistance programs that give out free medications, low priced generic drugs can substitute for expensive brand name drugs, and more. Find the best ways to save up to 50% on your medicines, or even receive free medications if your income is low enough. Read more on applying for free prescription drugs.

Tip 10 - Implement steps to save money on medical bills. There are many things you can pro-actively do, on your own, to reduce costs. Everything from using an application on your phone to shopping around for discounts, using coupons (for prescription drugs), and much more. Find a list of tips for how to save money on health care costs.

Tip 11 - Look into affordable payment plans or credit. As one example, be sure to explore CareCredit. This is a program which can provide free financing for your medical bills and upcoming surgeries as well as future doctor appointments. While this is not a perfect solution as it involves taking on some additional debt, the financing is offered at a low interest rate. More information on Carecredit for medical bill financing.

 

 

 

 

Tip 12 - If you do not have health insurance, then there are tips for that as well. It is possible to save money on medical bills even when not insured. The fact is that many patients, in particular low income ones, have limited health insurance coverage or they have a high deductible on their policy. Both of those can be difficult challenges to overcome. If you do not have health insurance or are underinsured, find tips tailored for your situation to reduce your medical bills.

By Jon McNamara

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