It’s bad enough to end up in the hospital, but the resultant large medical bills could prove to be as stressful and draining as the medical issue itself. Such bills can also be confusing, contain mistakes, or be misleading. However, getting overwhelmed won’t solve your problems. Follow this advice to help get your medical bill affairs in order.
- organize your bills
- review each bill with a fine-toothed comb
- reach out and negotiate
- research assistance programs
- ignore your bills
- pay your bills immediately
- assume all charges are legitimate and reasonable
- go it alone
In a best-case scenario, you should collect your medical bills as you receive them, and keep them in one place—not mixed in with other bills. Keep and track every bill you receive – write down each debt and what it’s for, either by hand or in a computer spreadsheet.
Pore through each charge on every medical bill you’re received. Hospital bills can contain errors. If you brought your own medicines, but were charged for them, this can be disputed. If you were driven by a family member to the hospital, but were charged for an ambulance ride, this can be disputed. Make sure you are charged only for the correct services rendered.
It is possible to negotiate with those who provided your medical care—hospitals, labs, doctors, etc. In that regard, many hospitals and clinics can arrange affordable payment plans. Even if you can afford to pay your bill right away, the possibility of paying over time may be invoked as a negotiating tactic.
If you really are in dire financial straits, it is possible that you may qualify for assistance from the government, charity organizations, or even the hospital itself. Most hospitals have representatives who can research your individual case to see if you qualify.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when hit with unexpected medical debt. Resist the urge to sweep your bills under the rug because this won’t make the problem go away. In fact, things will only become worse and get you in hot water with bill collectors, and damage your credit.
Unless you have hidden wealth stashed away and can laugh at measly problems like sudden medical debt, don’t pay your bills off immediately. As mentioned before, negotiation is actually a common practice: insurance companies are not paying “sticker price” for hospital bills, so why should you? Take time to explore your options before depleting your savings to pay. Of course, keep track of what your health plan covers, and then make sure you finish negotiating before an actual due date passes.
Hospitals have been known to overcharge patients for items like teddy bears, tissues, and gauze. Moreover, charges for services can vary wildly between hospitals within the same region. Do your research, and go through each charge. If applicable, your insurance provider may be able to help with this.
You may feel isolated when confronted with outrageous medical bills, but the truth is that this happens to thousands of Americans every day. There are internet discussion groups that can point the way to helpful resources, and experts who are willing to help you and even represent you if necessary. Your family and friends can also be a means of support—if not financially, then certainly emotionally. Bottling up despair and frustration isn’t healthy, so try to identify sources of support, and get the help you need.
Large medical bills can be a huge financial obstacle, especially if you’re dealing with an ongoing medical condition or recovering from serious injury. But by being proactive, doing your research, and weighing all the options available to you, you can better handle that debt and move on with your life.