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Paying Medical Bills at a Reduced Cost

 

Reducing the Cost of Medical Bills

Paying medical bills can be a huge financial hardship on you and your family, but there are ways to make medical costs more manageable.

1. Check Your Bill

As a first step, go through the itemized list of charges included in each medical bill and compare this with your insurance company's Explanation of Benefits (EOB). You are looking for mistakes, which could include things like duplicate billing, services or items never received, or coding errors.

If you find a mistake on a bill, your next step is to call the billing department, the phone number for which should be included on the bill. You should discuss your concerns and ask questions, such as: Why was I charged for this? Is this particular code correct? Is this amount accurate? They may agree that you were overcharged and adjust your bill on the phone, or they may not agree with you, in which case the bill stands as is.

Once you've gotten more information from the biller, determine if you would like to dispute the charges you were questioning. This essentially means the medical provider will investigate further and get back to you. If you choose to dispute, then you'll get the details about that process while on the phone, including how long the process should take.

Finding these errors can reduce your overall bill. If you need help going through the itemized list of charges, medical bill advocates may be able to help you.

2. Learn to Negotiate

Here's a little known secret: you can negotiate lower medical bills, even after you have received the services. Before you get on the phone with a hospital's financial counselor or your doctor's billing department, outline the reasons why you are asking for a discount, such as not having health insurance. Then, call the medical billing department and ask to speak to a financial counselor. They will help you determine what your best options are.

3. Indentify a Payment Option 

After you have cleared up any mistakes and received any discounts from negotiating, you're still left with the actual amount you have to pay. If you can't afford to pay the full amount at once, choose a payment option with the best possible terms for you.

Here are few options:

Set up a payment plan

Most medical providers offer interest-free payment plans, as long as you consistently make monthly payments.

Use credit cards with no interest

If you have good credit, open a new credit card with no interest rate on balance transfers or new charges for the first six months to a year. This lets you pay off as much as you can before you get hit with interest. There are usually fees associated with these cards, like an annual fee or a balance transfer fee.

Use medical credit cards

There are medical credit cards available with more favorable interest rates, even if you don't have great credit. Offers can include promotional financing of 6, 12, or 24 months of no interest for qualifying medical costs, as long as you pay off the balance within that time frame.

Take the steps above when paying medical bills and you'll not only pay less for your health care costs in the long run, but you should also be able to give yourself some immediate financial relief.

Tools to Help

Finding Money for an Emergency Fund

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Cash Flow budget Worksheet

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What You Can Do Right Now

Information is great. But taking small steps now can lead to big changes.
  • Today
  • Make sure you know exactly how much you owe and what you owe the money for. Request an itemized bill from your health care provider. If there are charges you do not recognize, ask about them.
  • Next Week
  • Check with your insurance provider about the portions of the bill it was supposed to cover. This goes for Medicaid, State Children’s Health Insurance Programs, and Medicare.
  • If you don't make much money, see if charity care can be applied to hospital bills.
  • Set up a payment plan. Make sure it’s one you can afford. Make sure all of your living expenses and higher priority debts are covered before you commit to a payment plan for medical debt.
  • In the Next Few Months
  • Continue to make payments on your debt. Be sure that you pay on time.
  • Deduct any applicable medical expenses on your taxes.
  • Consider setting up an emergency savings fund to cover future medical expenses.