how to handle medical bills?

Source: Federal Citizen Information Center of the U.S. General Services Administration

              Medical bills are usually delivered to your house several days after your hospital visit. Do not ignore medical bills. If you ignore them, then you will certainly hear from a collection agency.

              Soon after receiving a bill from the hospital or from a health care provider, contact them to get an itemized bill. You need to get an itemized bill in order to look for errors. It is pretty common for hospitals to overcharge patients or to charge patients for tests never performed.

              You should try to negotiate the charges with the doctors and hospitals. Tell the doctors and hospitals how much you can pay now and how much you can pay in monthly installments. Most doctors and hospitals will be willing to set up a payment plan, preferably interest-free. But, be sure to get the payment terms in writing.

              In fact, you need to talk to the person in charge of billing, for example the billing department manager. You need to find the person with the ability to adjust your bill. At this moment, the health care providers who directly cared for you during your hospital visit are usually out of the billing process.

              Do not feel embarrassed to ask for help because you have nothing to lose. In fact, hospitals, clinics, and medical providers are usually willing to draft a payment plan.

              On the other hand, compare the prices on your medical bill with the prices paid by Medicare for the same procedures and tests. Medicare is the government-sponsored healthcare program for retirees and Medicare sets the prices by law. Medicare tells the healthcare providers what and how much will be paid. Therefore, you may offer to pay your medical bills according to the Medicare fee schedules.

              In the health care industry, the lowest rates are almost always the Medicare and Medicaid rates. If you want to take a look at the Medicare and Medicaid fee schedules, then go to www.cms.hhs.gov

              When you dispute a charge or negotiate a payment plan, always act in a professional, respectful way. Never raise your voice and never use foul language. Your goal is to make hospitals and medical providers sympathetic to your financial difficulties. The same behavior applies when you get in touch with your health insurance company.

              You need to ask the benefits office at your work about what type of health care is in your insurance plan. Pay attention to the details of your health insurance plan. Your insurance company may not want to pay for your medical bills and, in turn, you will have to appeal your case several times. Sometimes, the way doctors and nurses write the medical procedures and tests on the insurance forms can lead to a denial by the insurance company.

              The fact is health insurance companies do not want to pay for procedures and tests that are not medically necessary. You need to ask your doctor, the hospital, and even the benefits office at your work on how to refile a request with the insurance company. Sometimes, doctors and hospitals enter the wrong code when filing an insurance claim and, therefore, you should review your insurance claim in order to see if it can be changed or corrected.

              You must appeal your case with the insurance company at least three times. Now, if all appeals fail, then you can get a letter from a lawyer and mail it to the president of the insurance company. The letter should ask for the company to take a better look into your claim. You should only use a lawyer when all appeals fail.