Hospital bills are one of the major barriers for patients and their families to access proper medical care. In the United States, there are millions of adults each year who are unable to pay for their medical bills.
In order to get help paying hospital bills, patients can take steps to provide the best solutions for their financial needs.
10 Steps To Get Help Paying Hospital Bills
1. Keep On Top Of Things
Being organized is the first step in getting help with your hospital bills. Having piles of medical bills can be an overwhelming experience and often individuals would rather choose to ignore or procrastinate in dealing with them. It can be particularly hard if you are receiving multiple medical bills from different medical providers at one given time. This can be confusing to understand what you are paying for. These include medical bills from your doctor, medical expenses for your lab results, ambulance expenses and other hospital fees.
Knowing how much your medical bills cost, the deadlines for each and the number of bills you need to cover can give you a better representation of how much financial assistance you may require.
Patients should aim to keep track of every bill that is received. This can easily be done by creating a spreadsheet and tracking the items of each bill, costs and deadlines. By keeping track of each item and bill, you can than have a estimated amount of your medical expenses. This spreadsheet will also help with your cashflow to manage your income and ensure you can pay your medical expenses on time.
2. Manage Your Money
Managing your money plays a crucial role in ensuring that your finances cover the cost of unpaid medical bills on time. It can also give you an indication of when you will run out of savings or funding and therefore, when you need to start looking for financial assistance.
Keeping record of how much you spend on food, rent, electricity, child care, transportation and other daily expenses can give you an estimation of your current living expenses that you generally need to cover.
Managing your income to pay for these expenses along with any medical bills is tricky. You can get assistance from a non-profit organization for free or seek paid advice on how to manage your money better.
3. Exam Your Hospital Bills
When you a receive a medical bill, you need to check that each expense is itemized. Terms such as miscellaneous fees or lab fees, are general terms that may or may not be applicable to you. It is important to understand what each charge and item of the medical bill is before making a payment. Return back to the billing department in the hospital to receive an itemized hospital bill. These are normally given on request. If the hospital refuses to give you an itemized hospital bill, writing a letter to request for an itemized hospital bill should be addressed to the hospital administrator or patient ombudsman.
Knowing exactly what each item is can help ensure that there are no mistakes or problems with you bill. It can also help individuals check for errors. Errors and even overcharges can be common mistakes and if left unattended to, patients can be paying for treatments and services that were not received. Medical bills can also have duplicates, which is an error that is commonly found.
For example, some patients have experienced being discharged in the morning at the hospital, but upon receiving the medical bill, they have been charged with a full day room rate.
Another common experience from patients is being billed for medication by the hospital when you have brought your medication along with you. Items such as gowns, gloves or sheets are typically charged within the hospital room price. If you notice on your medical bill that it has been charged as separate costs, you should speak with the billing department.
If you are unsure of any items on your medical bill for whatever reason, be sure to speak to your hospital billing department to double check all charges being made before sending a payment through.
4. Negotiate Your Medical Bills
To get help paying hospital bills, negotiation skills can help tremendously in reducing the cost of your medical bill. This will lower the out of pocket cost that patients will have to cover.
There are many levels of negotiation that can take place. The first is negotiating the terms of payment. Typically a patient will receive a medical bill with a deadline. This deadline is the date on which the bill needs to be paid. Negotiating to make small adjustments to this can help patients who are having difficulties with their cashflow. This is particularly useful for patients who are able to pay their medical bills over a longer period of time.
For example, speaking to your hospital or clinic business office staff about extending your time on deadlines for medical bills can be easily done. This is formally done through a payment plan that is discussed and approved by both parties.
Another level of negotiation arises when a patient wants to receive a discount on their medical bill. The best way to receive discounts is by knowing the fair market price of the treatments and services that you have received. You can do this online as well as looking into the Medicare rates as a guideline. When a medical provider has overcharged you or charged a high amount above the fair market price, patients are able to negotiate down these costs significantly.
Negotiation can also take place when a patient wants to ask to waiver fees and costs. This is generally the highest level of negotiation. Knowing which costs can be dismissed is important. For example, patients can negotiate doctor’s fees and appointment cost where they may be able to receive a waiver as compared to surgery costs where it can be more complicated and strict.
5. Challenge Your Health Insurer
Health insurance policies are often the main reason why patients struggle to receive treatment due to having unforeseen and large out of pocket costs.
Before challenging your health insurer, be sure to review your hospital bills and examine all costs. Then make sure you read your policies, terms and conditions of the health insurance you currently have in order to determine whether some expenses can be covered by insurance in full or at what percentage.
Don’t hesitate to appeal or challenge what a health insurer decisions as this can ultimately reduce your medical bill by thousands of dollars.
Knowing your insurance policy beforehand is the best way to avoid any issues in the future. Patients should examine their insurance policy and ask questions about up coming treatments and services that they intend to have beforehand.
Finding out whether particular drugs for example, are covered by your medical insurance company can help determine the best course of action. You can decide to speak with your doctor for alternative medication that may be covered under your health insurance instead. This can help pay your hospital bills.
6. Offer Bulk Payments
Making a bulk payment for your medical bill can sometimes offer better benefits for patients who are struggling financially. Offering to give a lump sum payment to cover a medical bill can allow patients to receive a significantly bigger discount than they would otherwise receive.
Medical providers are more accepting of this method as it guarantees a medical provider will at least receive a larger portion of the medical bill on time, if not at all. It also means, medical providers will not have to go through the lengthy processes of seeking help from a debt collector and avoid further problems of claiming unpaid medical bills.
In this scenario, patients are able to receive a larger discount and remain in good credit status as a back up for future financial debt.
7. Seek Professional Help
Getting help paying hospital bills might be too difficult to deal with on your own. Many patients in fact can feel overwhelmed by the whole process and prefer a professional to deal with medical billing issues. Undergoing treatment or caring for a loved one who is ill is already a handful without having to deal with the financial burden that comes along with it.
That’s why there are paid professionals that can assist in the process. These professionals can take care of the messy, complicated and stressful process when it comes getting help paying hospital bills. Medical billing advocates for example, are experts in negotiating and handling your medical bills. They will typically offer to review your hospital bill to check for errors and potential areas where money can be saved. This is a free service with a small charge determined by the percent of what you end up saving. This is typically a charge of 20 up to 30 percent.
One example is Copatient.com which provides a full service for patients to deal with their medical bills on their behalf at a 30 percent charge on what they end up saving.
Before seeking professional help, make sure that you ask for all fees and costs upfront. This will ensure that there are no unexpected surprises later down the track. You can also ask for quotes from several different places to get the best deal.
8. Applying For Hospital Financial Assistance
For many patients, their financial circumstances is a clear indication that they are eligible for hospital financial assistance. There are many types of hospital financial assistance available including Medicaid.
To find out what may be available to you, speak with your health professional, counselor or social worker who can help make referrals to the right programs available to you.
Drug assistance programs offered by a large number of pharmaceutical companies for example are great ways to reduce the cost of your hospital bill. Having your own medication rather than being billed for medication within the hospital can significantly reduce the cost of our medical bill.
There may also be available grants and financial assistance services available to individuals who pass certain requirements. Eligibility is predominately assessed by the income you earn and your combine household income. These vary depending on whether you are a couple, single or are a dependent. Other factors include age and disease type.
9. Seek Help From Non-Profit Organizations
Non-profit organizations, particularly organization that are specific to your disease, illness or disability can help families over come financial debt.
To get help with hospital bills, patients can find non-profit organizations with a specific mission to help families and individuals with financial assistance. Tapping into programs and services that are provided for free from non-profits can help pay your hospital bills. Many non-profits organizations will offer free transportation to and from hospital, provide one-off financial assistance, help with applications to programs, provide referrals or advocate for your medical bills on your behalf.
Many non-profits will be restricted by resources and availability of funding. Therefore, some non-profits may close off application for services or no longer provide a program depending on whether or not they have funding available to use. This is a common problem for many non-profits, particularly organizations that are volunteer run.
10. Use Alternative Financial Assistance Options
Beyond the government programs, grants and negotiation tactics, patients and their families can get help paying hospital bills in more innovative and creative ways.
Crowdfunding, a concept where patients are able to crowd source the cost of medical expenses, is a fairly new concept that many families can taken when facing overwhelming amounts of medical debt.
Although this can typically is seen as a last resort, families can benefit from using crowdfunding websites such as PeoplePledge as soon as they are diagnosed as there are no cost in using it. This means it is a win-win situation where families can create and run a fundraiser at no charge, and if they receive support from family and friends, then these funds can be used to help cover medical costs.
Donors, who are generally family, friends and extended networks of the patient can make contributions online using a credit card, PayPal or even direct debit cards.
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