There is no doubt that the health care costs are rising from last few years. One small accident or an ailment can affect you physically and mentally, and can change your entire life. The effect is not only limited to physical health, but affects your financial situation as well. If you are wondering what happens when you don’t pay your hospital bills, there are many issues can arise.
Not Paying Hospital Bills A Common Problem
if you are struggling to pay your medical bills, you are not alone. According to a study led by the Commonwealth Fund, approximately 79 million Americans struggled to pay medical bills in 2007. 18% of people reported having trouble paying medical bills In January 2008, which had increased to 21% by December 2008. Another study published by the Healthcare and Utilization Project (HCUP) in 2009, states that the average hospitalization charge per stay for an uninsured person is $19,400. According to most of the health care providers and finance analysts, nearly 50% of coinsurance balances are going to bad debt and it will increase over the coming years.
What Happens If I Do Not Pay My Hospital Bill?
In case you are not able to pay your medical bills on time, there’s a strong chance your finances could be impacted by your stint in the hospital. In this scenario, your health care provider will transfer your debt over to a collection agency. The collection agency is in charge of working with you directly to ensure that all bills and charges are paid immediately. This means you will start to receive notifications, letters and phone calls regarding your debt. Although the agency will then get in touch with you and try to get you to pay, at this point, your unpaid medical bill is probably already showing up on your credit report and your credit rating could suffer for years. The long term effect will mean it will be difficult for you to apply or seek for credit cards, loans or payment extensions.
Many families and individuals can’t afford to pay high medical bills up front and many individuals will be turned away from hospitals, general practitioners and health care professionals once your debt has been notified to the collection agency. Although you might be in dire need of medical treatment, you the hospital and health care professionals have a right to deny you access to treatment.
Solutions To Overcome Unpaid Medical Bills
Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) and the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals (ACA International) have joined forces to come up with best practices for collecting medical bills to overcome medical debt. These suggestions below can be helpful tips to guide individuals to overcome medical debt.
1. Check medical bills thoroughly for billing errors
When you get your medical bill, examine it carefully, especially when something is complicated like a procedure involving hospital stays as well as costs associated with supplies for the surgery or procedure. Look it over with a fine-tooth comb for errors, double billing, medications you didn’t receive and the wrong room rates. These errors happen more often than you think, so request to hospital for an itemized bill to check exactly where your money is going. If you belong to low income or living at below the poverty line, ask your hospital about assistance programs. Also, check for duplicate charges that may have been charged to you by mistake, such as medications, x-rays, MRIs and lab work, treatments or meals you didn’t receive when you were hospitalized.
2.Be aware of costs to bargain effectively
It is always better to be well-informed about the actual costs of medical procedures, supplies and medications so you can bargain effectively. By knowing the actual costs you can anticipate and track the medical expenses. For non-emergency conditions, ask the hospital what a procedure or test will cost, offer to pay in cash if they will lower the price. Many hospitals do it happily. Always be pro-active in case of emergency and inquire about the costs in advance. Make sure you know if it will be covered. If you don’t have insurance, ask if they will work with you to reduce the cost.
3. Learn to negotiate well
If you are expecting a big bill, or unexpectedly got a large bill in the mail, talk to your health care provider. Negotiation with the billing department at some points can help you avoid outrageous costs and pay off medical bills more easily, especially when you don’t have insurance. Explain to them about your financial condition, what you can afford to pay on a monthly basis, and see how they can work with you. Before arranging a time to speak with them, make sure that you have all your documents and itemized bills detailing for every single procedure or charge. This helps to show you’ve done your homework and have been organized.
4.Contact charities and organizations that can help with paying bills
There are various non-profits organizations provide financial assistance with medical bills, prescriptions or health care expenses, focusing on helping patients who have a significant health care issues. These non-profits and charity organizations help people financially in order to pay their medical bills. This includes giving prescription drugs, getting access to counseling, seeking advice, and providing information on programs and resources that are available to help you.
National organizations and charities can also provide you with various forms of help. Many of them can refer you to a Claims Assistant Professional who are specialists in medical billing, health insurance, medical law, and/or medical care in general. These professional play the role of mediators to negotiate with your health insurer and appeal coverage denials. They will also dispute the charges on your bill, find billing errors, and generally work on your behalf to get you lower fees.
5. Start an online fundraiser
An online fundraising website is the easiest way to help friends or family raise money for unexpected medical bills. It is a great alternative for those who require help fast. There are a number of sites that allow anyone to create an individual fundraising page and explain what your medical condition is. Some offer assistance completely for free while others can charge up to 15% off every donation you receive. It’s important that when you select your chosen fundraising website to select one that best suits your needs.
1) Managing High Medical Bills: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/managing-high-medical-bills-32221.html
2) Medical Bills on Your Credit Report: http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/health/2014/08/19/medical-bills-on-credit-report/
3) What to Do If You Can’t Afford Your Medical Bills: http://acthealthyoregon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/ANHO_FactSheet_MedicalBills.pdf
4) Charities and organizations that can help with paying bills: http://www.needhelppayingbills.com/html/charities_and_organizations_th.html
5) What to Do When You Can’t Pay Medical Bills: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/05/25/what-to-do-when-you-cant-pay-medical-bills
6) What to Do If Your Medical Bills Go to Collection: http://allfinancialmatters.com/2010/03/18/what-to-do-if-your-medical-bills-go-to-collection/