Years ago a study came out saying 61% of those who apply for bankruptcy have an outstanding medical bill including in their filing. Even with health insurance, sometimes people have medical procedures that either aren’t covered by insurance or have balances after insurance that they’re responsible for.

live surgery via Compfight

If the balances are small they should be easily taken care of. After all, it doesn’t pay to have a physician upset with you because you didn’t pay on a $30 bill. Other than just paying them there’s nothing you can do about those types of claims. However, there are some things you should be doing if your bills are, or possibly could end up, being pretty high.

The first thing you need to do is find out how much services are going to cost. There’s a push in the country for what’s called pricing transparency, which means both hospitals and physicians have to tell you how much something is going to cost, within reason. For instance, if you’re having an x-ray or lab test done that’s easy to know. If you’re having a surgery it could be more difficult depending on the severity of the surgery because both hospitals and physicians bill based on time, and each patient is different. A surgery that’s expected to last 2 hours can easily go to 4 or 5 hours if there are complications that the physician didn’t know about up front. Still, patients should be given an idea of how much medical services are going to cost them if requested.

The second thing to do, if you have insurance, is verify with the insurance company that your procedure is going to be covered. Many patients think it should be the doctor’s office or hospital’s responsibility to check on this for them; you might be right, but it’s not a guarantee. You’re the one who’ll be getting billed for it on the back end, which means this one’s on you if you really want to be protected.

The third thing you need to do if you discover the bill is going to be high is try to see if you qualify for any kind of discount based on income. If you have insurance you’ll have to wait until it’s been billed so everyone knows what your remaining balance is going to be. However, every public hospital has charity care options which could end up with you paying a reduction of services or even getting the entire bill covered. You need to know that many hospitals will require, if your bill is really high and your income is really low, that you attempt to get Medicaid coverage first, and they’ll help you with that. Don’t be too proud; as long as you’re being helped your account won’t be send to collections.

When all else fails, set up a payment plan with the hospital or physician, then stick with it. In today’s economy, they’re not trying to get you paying outrageous amounts that they know you’re going to fail on. Offer them something legitimate, like $100 a month on a $10,000 bill, then work as hard as you can to keep up on it. If you think you’re going to fall behind, call them up and explain your issues.

The best thing about working with those trying to get you to pay hospital or physicians bills while they still have them is that they’re willing to work with you a lot more than traditional collection agencies. Most of then are nice people; give it a shot.

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