There’s no shame not understanding your medical bills. They’re filled with medical gobbledygook to the normal person. This is especially frightening when they get large. You certainly don’t want unpaid bills being sent to a collection agency where your credit score will be hurt. Many bills may have common errors and hospital bills tend to have more errors than doctors’ bills. What should you do?
First, ask your medical provider for a fully itemized bill. This is the first place to start even though it may be daunting for you to understand. Without a full itemization, you have little to stand on as you will see below.
But, the first step above is actually a step or two behind. You should discuss the costs, assuming not an emergency where you’ve landed in the hospital unexpectedly, at the very beginning, before you have any procedure done. Perhaps paying by cash (check) may provide you a discount on certain items. In other words, paying by credit card or on credit may be more expensive. Next, can should start right away on a payment plan. You may get an interest free payment plan on the balance or some of the non-cash procedures.
Many doctors offer patients “medical credit cards.” These allow you to pay large bills in monthly payments. Some offer deferred interest where the payments are interest free … BUT, only during the specified payment period. If you don’t pay in full by that time, you’ll be hit with all the accrued interest; that’s what deferred means. And the deferred interest rate may be very high. If you don’t think you can pay in full by the end of the period, it might be less expensive to use a regular credit card with a lower interest rate and pay the interest along the way too, in order to have an open ended payment period (but could be more expensive in the long run too, if you take longer to pay than the payment period of the interest free card).
Second, consider a medical bill advocate. Advocates help you find errors, negotiate with insurers to appeal coverage denials, and negotiate lower fees. It may be possible your employer offers a free or discounted advocate. If not working, or no employer benefit, a quick Google search may turn up advocate companies. They usually charge some percentage of your bill savings, so they’re incentivized to find you savings too. You’re ahead the difference.
Lastly, ask your hospital if they have a charity program to help pay bills if you qualify. Doctors may also know of outside organizations that help patients with medical bills. Google searching “medical bill charity” may turn up one for you if your hospital or doctor(s) don’t know of one locally.
Worrying about bills is not good for your health or recovery. Focus your attention on constructive things such as those mentioned above to reduce the burden of bills. Reducing the burden of worries, helps you be healthier too.
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