How to Pay Medical Bills When They’re Huge

How to Pay Medical BillsEven if you have health insurance, how to pay medical bills that are very large can be a serious problem. Not only are there deductibles and co-insurance provisions, but sometimes you can even run into uncovered expenses. And even if you are thorough in doing everything your health insurance company requires you to do to ensure your coverage, you can still end up owing thousands of dollars out of your own pocket.

If that happens to you, how can you deal with it?

How to pay medical bills Rule #1: Get involved early

In theory, the expense side of your medical treatment should be a flawless exchange between your healthcare providers and your insurance company. In reality, it often isn’t. For this reason you need to get involved in the process yourself, and do it as early as possible.

If you have to pay medical bills, and they are either large or unexpected, it’s time to begin making contact with the relevant parties. First, call the insurance company to make sure that the bill was properly submitted. Many times healthcare providers improperly code the bill and submit it, and the insurance company rejects it. This is a simple problem to fix but you have to make the calls to make it happen.

Second, make sure that the healthcare provider obtained and submitted any necessary pre-certifications to the insurance company. Again, the provider is supposed to handle this but sometimes they don’t. Depending on laws in your state, you may have a certain amount of time to get pre-certifications in after the fact in order for the health insurance company to accept them. This is why you need to move so quickly on this.

Never ignore a bill

Anytime you receive a bill from a healthcare provider start working on it immediately. Make sure that you are being billed for services that you actually received. Also, contact the provider to make sure that the bill was submitted to your insurance carrier – never assume that it has been. It’s not a bad idea to follow up with your insurance company as well.

The worst thing you can do is to ignore a bill. If you do, valuable time will pass and eliminate some pretty easy options. Once a bill has been outstanding for several months, you may have no choice but to pay it regardless of how many mistakes that were made either by the provider or your health insurance company.

Double check your insurance to make sure they didn’t miss something

You should never just pay medical bills blindly, under the assumption that a certain expense is either part of your deductible or is an uncovered procedure. Health insurance companies make mistakes too, and the burden is on you to identify these and to follow up with the proper people.

Set up a payment plan

Let’s say that you receive a large hospital bill that you must in fact pay out-of-pocket. If you don’t have the cash to settle the bill immediately, call the hospital finance department and work out a payment plan. This is how you pay medical bills when you can afford to pay medical bills! And it is a common practice in the healthcare industry, especially with so many people taking very high deductible plans just to be able to afford health insurance.

Hospitals will generally push for you to make the largest monthly payment possible, but it will do you little good to accept a payment plan that you cannot comfortably afford to meet. Make sure that the payment is one you can easily afford. If the payments are too high and you can’t make them, the bill will end up in collection and then you’ll have other problems.

If you can’t pay an entire bill, settle for what you can

Still another option is to settle the bill for less than the full amount. Some medical providers will be more open to this than others. They may prefer to accept a reduced amount upfront, rather than waiting for a series of payments over a long period of time.

How much a medical provider will accept in settlement of the bill will vary by the medical provider, the size of the bill and local practice. But this is always an option you should pursue if you are in a position to make a large payment in a lump sum, but not enough to pay the bill fully.

Request hardship consideration

If you are not in a position where you can make payments on your medical bills, and you don’t have the cash to make a settlement either, you can ask for hardship consideration. This is where the medical provider either severely reduces the bill, or even writes it off completely.

More than likely, you will have to supply financial information to disclose your income and assets. This will work in your favor if you’re unemployed or have other financial troubles. If you are really not financially challenged, it may still be worth a try, but you’ll probably be turned down.

Try any or all of these strategies and see if they will help you to pay your medical bills.

Have you ever used any of these methods to deal with large medical bills?

About Kevin

With backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry, Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of OutOfYourRut.com, a website about careers, business ideas, money and more. A committed Christian, he lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids.

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  • http://www.1500days.com Mrs. 1500

    The payment plan is such a great suggestion. The providers want to be paid, and will help you in any way they can. When our second daughter was born, our insurance had changed and our portion was much larger than the first time around. I didn’t have the entire amount, and was looking to split it up into two payments. When I called the hospital to ask about a payment plan, they said they could put me on a 10-month plan, but if I needed any more time, I would have to talk to a different department. 10 months to pay it off? Sign me up!

    The payments were easy, and the hospital could not have been nicer about it.

    I used to work in the HMO Department of large doctor’s complex, and the calls I would get about why something wasn’t covered were numerous and very sad. So many people are not aware of the requirements of service, and an HMO means you have a primary care physician who must recommend you see a specialist before you go see one. If you don’t get the referral, you are responsible for the bill. If not a life-threatening situation, if you go to the emergency room without a referral, you are responsible for that, too.

    I learned so much working in that office, and you wouldn’t believe the questions you don’t know to ask, until you are stuck with the bill.

    This is a great post, thanks for the information!

    • http://outofyourrut.com/ Kevin Mercadante

      Thanks! I’ve actually written this post from experience! I think when you have a family you hit on this sooner or later. It’s best to be prepared with options when you do.

  • ReneeB

    How about getting a 2nd job to knock out medical bills as a solution? That’s what we are doing. I don’t care to be in debt to the hospital for the next several years. Just another idea….

  • 2-copper-coins.com

    Many people don’t realize that they don’t owe 100% of what their bill states, because you have the option to settle. Hospitals know that they won’t always be able to get all of the money they bill patients for and will often take when a patient can offer.