Medical Bill Problems and How to Handle Them
Quite easily, any medical emergency can result in large bills, debt that must be repaid and usually in a timely fashion. A visit to the emergency room can set you back hundreds of dollars, a short stay at the hospital can top $10,000. Even with insurance, your deductible may leave you paying the bulk of a bill, a cost that you cannot afford to bear yourself.
If you are being hit by medical bills, this a problem that needs a solution. The answer to your problem can vary, but there are certain strategies that every consumer should employ when seeking assistance.
1. Remember, you have rights. Every medical user — and that means every consumer — has rights. Your rights may not seem to be entirely clear, but your state’s consumer affairs department can point you in the right direction.
Many states simply forbid medical providers from billing and not explaining the charges. If you receive a bill and do not understand the line items, you can ask that an itemized bill be sent to you. Review that bill and question charges that do not belong to you, are coded incorrectly or are simply unclear.
2. Get it in writing. If you have a problem with a bill, then write a complaint letter and keep a copy of that letter for your records. Explain the problem and insist that the account be placed on hold until the matter has been resolved.
If you do not get a satisfactory response, begin to move up the chain of command. Keep records of your phone calls, obtain names and ask that your problem be addressed. Speak with a billing department representative and ask that your account be reviewed.
3. File complaints as necessary. We touched on filing complaints earlier, but if you do not receive satisfaction, you may need to expand your reach. Your insurer or healthcare provider may be slow to respond, with collections departments sending dunning letters to you.
Your state can assist you through its Department of Insurance or through the attorney general’s office. In some states you can be assigned an advocate to help see you through a problem or to answer your billing questions.
4. Ask your insurer for assistance. If your problem is not with your insurance company, your insurer may be your best advocate. For instance, if a provider is in your insurer’s network, they have the leverage to obtain a discount on your behalf. In-network medical providers are under contract to insurance companies and must abide by certain rules and guidelines as well.
Your insurer can negotiate a discounted rate on your behalf. Also, if you have difficulty making payments, a payment plan can be arranged. Your insurer may also need to reprocess a claim if it was coded incorrectly or if the information has been changed.
Medical Bill Considerations
Most medical bill problems can be resolved with persistence. Keep excellent records, engage your contacts politely and follow up as needed. If you cannot afford to pay your bills, say so — you may qualify for assistance or for partial forgiveness.
See Also — Chop Chop: How to Rein in Healthcare Costs