There’s an old saying that the best thing you can do when you need help is to ask. That’s right.
Ask. The worst that can happen is that someone will tell you no. That’s precisely the situation many people are in when they receive a medical bill they can’t pay. And, rest assured, there are many people out there in precisely the same situation.
How many? It’s hard to say, but it’s much more common than most people think. In fact, according to a report by The Journal of General Internal Medicine, more than 137.1 million American adults have faced financial hardship when confronted by a medical bill. And, it’s not just those with lower incomes who are affected. Those with larger incomes also face the problem. Fortunately, there are a lot of solutions, from negotiating the debt to medical bankruptcy. This article will lay out some of the options for you.
Ask for an Itemized Bill
As elementary as it might sound, asking a healthcare provider for an itemized bill is an excellent place to start. After all, bills are put together by humans, and humans make mistakes. Sometimes, many mistakes. Taking the time and effort to investigate the charges that you are expected to pay is not unreasonable, and it can save you a considerable amount of money.
Don’t be intimidated. The truth is that many people have little idea of what they are paying for when they receive medical care. Not only that, but there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to ask. This step might not resolve your bill, but certain errors are easy to catch, such as being charged for an MRI when you know there was never one performed or a medication that was never given.
It’s also a good idea to check online tools such as Fair Health Consumer or the Healthcare Bluebook to compare what was charged with what other healthcare providers charge. This will give you someplace to start when you begin to negotiate.
Be sure you check for unreasonable charges and duplicates. It has been shown that between 50 percent and 80 percent of all medical bills contain errors. It is worthy of note also that almost all these errors favor the provider.
Ask for Help
Even if a medical bill is correct, it doesn’t make it affordable. Further, most healthcare providers don’t volunteer to help you, but at least you can ask. It’s also important to know that not-for-profit institutions are required to make assistance available for those patients who need it, but they don’t usually tell you that.
When asking for help, it’s always helpful to have a number in mind of an amount you can afford to pay and, if you must make payments, create a payment schedule and stick with it.
Check the State’s Billing Protection Laws
If you happen to receive medical care at a network hospital, but an out-of-network physician treats you, you could end up with a surprise bill before you leave. Likewise, if you are in an emergency, you often don’t have the opportunity to choose an ambulance or provider, which makes a surprise bill likely.
In situations like these, there are laws designed to help the consumer with advocates and funds. Checking into these could be a big help.
One option that is often thought of but is shied away from as an absolute last option is a medical bankruptcy. This is unfortunate since it is a provision in the law made especially for people in these situations. It’s not something to be embarrassed about or to feel humiliated over. Medical bankruptcy is just another solution to an otherwise overwhelming situation that many find themselves in. Fortunately, it could end up being the best thing that could ever happen to you.
When faced with a large medical bill, there are many things you can do to resolve the situation. Avail yourself of them and make a difference for yourself.