You’d be hard-pressed to find an American citizen who doesn’t have a few health care horror stories. As the only profit-driven health care system in the developed world, the health care apparatus our country has in place has bled people dry financially for doing nothing more than seeking essential medical attention. Even if you have decent insurance, this doesn’t necessarily preclude you from facing exorbitant medical costs. In the interest of saving yourself a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources, consider taking the following measures the next time you receive an unaffordable medical bill.
Contact the Medical Facility from Which the Bill Came
The vast majority of medical bills (80%) contain errors, many of which cannot be explained by the facilities that compiled them. So, the next time you receive a medical bill, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the facility at which the services on the bill were provided and request that they explain every single charge. More often than not, they will be unable to explain and/or justify a fair number of charges, which should result in those charges being stricken from the bill. Most health care providers bank on patients paying bills without bothering to ask necessary questions.
Another reason to contact hospitals, doctors’ offices and other medical facilities is potential financial aid. A large number of health care providers offer financial aid services to uninsured and underinsured patients. Depending on the provider, qualifying for financial aid may essentially amount to free medical care. Unfortunately, many providers don’t openly advertise financial aid programs, placing the onus on patients to enquire about them – and you have absolutely nothing to lose by asking. Even if a provider doesn’t formally offer financial aid, they may forgive a sizable portion of your bill if you inform them that you’re uninsured, underinsured or financially strained.
In certain cases, simply expressing displeasure at the high costs of certain charges will be enough to get them removed from your bill. Many health care facilities are very much aware of their exorbitant prices and are ill-prepared to defend them.
In addition, you should get in touch with your insurance provider to confirm that you haven’t been improperly charged for services that are covered under your plan. Again, errors can be found on most medical bills, and your insurance company can prove helpful at identifying them.
Work Out a Payment Plan
Many medical facilities will abstain from sending bills to collections if patients make an earnest effort to pay them. So, if paying a certain bill all at once simply isn’t possible, get in touch with your provider and ask about working out a manageable payment plan. Many facilities will be more than happy to accommodate you and set a monthly repayment rate that’s well-suited to your income level. Once again, even if such services aren’t prominently advertised, there’s no harm in asking.
You may also want to consider seeking out more affordable options in the future. For example, many community clinics provide treatment to financially distraught patients free of charge. Additionally, if you’re in need of small-scale medical advice, an online doctor visit is liable to prove more affordable than an in-person one.
Apply for State Aid
Depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for Medicaid – a federal and state program designed to assist people with limited means with health care costs. The exact criteria for qualification vary from state to state, but if you’re interested in finding out if you qualify, visit your state’s Medicaid website and/or get in touch with a representative at your local welfare office.
Even with economic insecurity running rampant, many Americans attach a stigma to Medicaid and other federal assistance programs, characterizing individuals who benefit from these programs as “takers.” So, if this unfair characterization has prevented you from applying for Medicaid, don’t let it do so any longer. Medicaid and programs like it exist to help those in need – and if you’re among them, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy the benefits of affordable health care.
It’s impossible to deny that the U.S. health care system is broken. With patients being charged laughably exorbitant sums for routine visits and procedures, it’s easy to see why other developed countries have steered clear of for-profit health care. From a financial standpoint, few things are more stressful than being hit with an unmanageably high medical bill, especially for those of us living paycheck to paycheck. So, the next time you’re charged a small fortune for daring to see a doctor, just remember that you have options.