Affordable Health: How to Finance Your Medical Bills

Medical bills are a fact of life for many people. Open heart surgery, cancer treatment, or a prolonged illness can wipe out a patient’s savings, retirement funds, and possibly cause them to file for bankruptcy. Despite the coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act, skyrocketing medical expenses continue to be a way of life. High deductible plans are commonplace, making the insured shoulder more of the cost before the insurance begins to cover expenses. While medical expenses can create a significant financial hardship, there are ways to reduce them. They require work; phone calls, emails and research on billing and payment plans. The end result, however, can be a substantial reduction in your medical expenses.


Pre-Procedure Shopping

The fees hospitals and doctors charge, vary widely, even between those in close proximity. It is possible to have one hospital charge $50,000 for an orthopedic surgery, while another within 20 minutes and in the same insurance network charge over $140,000. There is no rhyme or reason to the disparity. Hospitals can set their own prices and negotiate with insurers for reimbursement rates. Contact the financial services office of the hospital to get an estimate of the cost. There are online sites, such as Healthcare Blue Book, which assist patients in researching the costs of procedures. If your insurance requires you go to a specific hospital and you find that an out-of-network hospital offers the same procedure for less, contact the billing office and ask if they will match the cost of the procedure. Many hospitals will.


Review Your Bill

The single most important thing is requesting an itemized bill upon discharge from the hospital. Hospitals are required to furnish an itemized statement upon request. Often the bill includes duplicate charges or charges that are unusually high given the item. For instance, if you find you are charged $10 for a Band-Aid or $20 for Tylenol, that’s too high. Additionally, if you are discharged in the morning, as many patients are, be sure you aren’t charged for a full day in the hospital. Items such as gloves and gowns should not be billed separately. These are items already factored into the cost of your room. Contact your insurance company immediately if you see any unusual charges. Insurers will review the bill and obtain information from the facility. You should not be billed until your insurer completes their investigation. Submit any questions you have regarding codes, costs, or other items in writing within 30 days of receiving your bill. This will stave off the collection process.


Payment Options

Providers are willing to work with patients to get paid. Try these proven options for reducing your expenses. Call the billing office and propose a lower rate. The information from Healthcare Blue Book can be invaluable here. If you can, offer to pay the balance in a lump sum in exchange for 20% or 30% off the balance. Providers and hospitals often do this to avoid re-billing costs. Alternately, propose a monthly amount you can afford and get a payment plan established. Pursue financial aid. Non-profit hospitals must, by law, provide financial aid to patients. Many have guidelines that offer aid to those making up to 400 times the poverty level. You have to compile an incredible amount of paperwork, but many times hospitals will take up to 40% off your bill after insurance. Medical billing advocates help patients wade through the myriad of paperwork and establish firm financial plans. These professionals generally do not charge an upfront fee and collect approximately 25% of the amount they save after negotiations are complete. These can be particularly helpful for those who are advocating on behalf of another individual. Non-profits often have money available to assist patients. The American Cancer Society has funds to assist patients in covering the costs of cancer treatment. Other non-profits can help with fees associated with dialysis, cardiac rehabilitation or other treatments.


Dealing with medical expenses is frustrating. Fortunately, most medical billing companies in USA, including those who work with hospitals, are willing to help patients pay their expenses at a reasonable rate. Utilizing the software available on Healthcare Blue Book can help you bring your bills down and alleviate the stress of medical expenses.