family medical bills

How to Negotiate Medical Bills

The typical American household pays more than $5,000 annually for health insurance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it is not all of them that pay for health insurance.

So what really happens to this group of people? The good news is that paying off the hospital and medical bills is still possible, and you can do this in multiple ways to negotiate.

You may apply for financial aid or enroll in a plan to pay off the debt gradually. These are the two main options, among many others getting a loan from friends and family members.

Even if you are unable to bargain medical bills to a lesser amount or completely eliminate them, there are methods to settle the amount in full, with no delinquency appearing on the report of your credit. Here are some tips to help you negotiate medical bills.

1. Negotiate before you receive treatment.

If you’re in certain circumstances, like an emergency room visit, you may not have a say regarding the cost of the treatment. However, if you’re having a scheduled surgery or procedure, you may be able to negotiate the cost of your medical treatment prior to your treatment. Here is how to get started:

  • Contact the billing department at the hospital for an estimate of the amount the procedure will cost you.
  • Give these details to the insurance company to receive an estimate of the amount your plan will cover.
  • Once you’ve established the amount you’ll have to pay and have a conversation with the hospital’s billing department to inform them of the amount you’ll be able to afford.
  • The billing department could suggest the establishment of an installment program or apply for assistance with payment programs based on the situation.

Do not be afraid to ask questions such as “Is this procedure required?” or “How much will it cost?” After all, the procedures at hospitals are still transactional and

Make contact with your healthcare provider instead of emailing them. It’s far more effective to negotiate medical bills on the phone rather than via email.

Be sure to note down the date and time of the phone call and also the name of any representative you talk with.

2. Find less expensive providers prior to getting the procedure done

Insurance companies provide cost estimates for their services. Certain companies offer cost comparison tools that can aid you in finding the best cost for the service you require.

If your insurance provider does not offer this option, you can try an independent website to get these details. These free tools let you evaluate the costs of prescription and treatment.

Cost should not be the main aspect when deciding which healthcare provider to use.

3. Know what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t

In order to properly evaluate your medical bills, you must be aware of what is and is not covered by the insurance plan. Without knowing this, you’ll never be able to negotiate a hospital invoice.

Request the Summary of Benefits and Insurance coverage with your insurance provider to know what your position is in terms of coinsurance, deductibles, and others.

4. Request an itemized statement and verify for any mistakes

After the treatment is complete, you’ll receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your insurance provider as well as a letter from your health provider.

The EOB may be revised after the processing of your claim. Do not pay the EOB without receiving an invoice from your provider. You can then confirm whether there are mistakes in the invoice.

5. Look for programs to help you pay

Contact your healthcare provider to inquire about charitable or financial assistance programs they provide. Hospitals have a set procedure to assist patients who cannot pay their bills. Some hospitals also offer discounted rates for those who do not have coverage from medical insurance.

If you’re not insured and cannot afford bills, then go ahead and talk to your healthcare provider. Make sure you provide proof that you’re unable to afford the amount owed. Documents like tax returns or personal letters are a good starting place.

Contact your local or state social service agencies to determine whether you are eligible for assistance with health issues that are applicable to your location.

If you’re not getting the help you need or just want someone to fight for you, you should consider the options offered by organizations like The  PAN Foundation.

6. Offer to pay in advance to receive an offer of a discount

This option isn’t available to everyone, but if you have enough cash to cover the bulk of your medical bills upfront, try to negotiate an arrangement.

Call the department that handles billing and request the payment of the majority of the charges in one go. Consumer Reports estimated that you could save 20% on the cost of your bill by using this method.

Request to speak with someone from the billing department. They are able to negotiate with you an offer. Note down the calls you made with the company, including the person you spoke to and the date and time.

7. Join a payment plan

Health care providers generally provide no-interest payment plans. These programs are typically available to all who require these programs. They can be a superior choice to getting loans for medical expenses.

So, you don’t need to satisfy certain conditions for eligibility like you do for payment assistance programs.

Pay medical bills using a credit card

This is also possible. However, you should keep in mind that you’ll likely pay interest in addition to the hospital expenses If you choose this option.

According to LendingTree information, the average APR on a newly issued credit card stood at 19.41 percent on May 7, 2021.

There are however some strategies you can employ to avoid paying interest on medical bills using credit cards. This includes using specific credit cards like:

  • Credit cards for medical purposes offer zero-interest financing for a specified amount of time.
  • A credit card that has an initial introductory period of 0% APR is another option. This may be helpful if you have excellent to good credit. You can pay off the balance during the initial period in order to avoid interest on your purchase. These periods of no interest typically last between 8 and 18 months. It can provide you with an excellent cushion to pay back debts from medical treatment.

Get a personal loan

It’s also possible to pay off medical bills with personal loans. Personal loans are unsecured loans that are able to cover almost anything, including medical expenses. Take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of this type of financing before applying.

If you have equity in your home, you can take out a loan with your home as collateral.  You may also borrow money against your retirement account.

These options could offer lower APRs. However, it also means you’ll be using your home or retirement savings account to secure the loan.

You should therefore consider if this is what you really want, considering that your home may be at risk of foreclosure.

Filing for bankruptcy

A majority of those who file for bankruptcy are doing so due to massive medical bills; as per an article from 2019 published in The American Journal of Public Health,

This should be considered an option of last resort for those who have a large number of medical bills. For some who are facing bankruptcy, it is the best choice in the face of overwhelming medical bills that leave no option to pay the debt.

Refuse to pay your medical bill

This option may also help you get rid of medical expenses. However, the medical provider can file a lawsuit against you. . If you’re found responsible for the debt, the court could decide to take your salary.

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