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Dealing with Large Medical Bills

Most everyone has medical bills. In many cases, their health insurance picks up the tab, so to speak, minus the copay and perhaps a deductible. Most people can work these smaller medical expenses into their budget. Larger medical bills, on the other hand, are a different debt. They do not come from your traditional type of lender, such as a bank, and they can put you in debt quickly with just one bill.

Often, this debt comes on unexpectedly, as a result of a medical emergency or unexpected health issue. One minute you have excellent credit and are debt-free, the next minute you owe thousands you might not be able to afford to pay, potentially leaving your credit score to suffer.

The good news, there are ways to deal with large medical bills, including questioning costs, negotiating charges, and setting up a payment plan.

Questioning Costs

There are a couple of ways you can question costs.

Get Information. The first thing you should do is research and arm yourself with price range data. This way you will have some knowledge to begin a discussion. Check the website of your insurance company. Most insurers allow their members to view their negotiated rates.

You can check other websites too like Healthcare Blue Book or New Choice Health to get an idea of the figures and see how much doctors and hospitals are charging. You can even get a sense of the average discount amount that insurers get.

Review for Clerical Errors. Many medical bills (between 50 to 80 percent) contain clerical errors that lead to overcharges. A recent analysis found there were errors in 49 percent of Medicare claims. However, most medical billing advocates claim they find around 80 percent of them contain errors.

These advocates work for the patients by looking for errors on medical bills and lower them on behalf of the patients.

Negotiating Charges

Most times, people do not even realize they can negotiate medical bills. You can negotiate medical bills not just through your doctor or hospital, but through your health insurance company too. It may take more effort to work with your insurer than to speak with a billing manager to get errors corrected, but the effort is worth it.

It is important that the person you speak with is the right person, such as the medical billing manager. Talking with a representative is not likely to get you very far. Although they may sympathize with your predicament, they are not authorized (in most cases) to fix the errors or provide you with a discount you negotiate.

Don't let this deter you. It may take you several attempts before you can persuade a correction or reduction in a bill. When making phone calls, emailing and faxing doesn't work, your next step is a formal letter that documents your request to have your bill discounted sent to the organization's management team.

Setting Up Payment Plans

If it is impossible to pay your medical bill immediately, see if you can set up a payment plan. You can often negotiate monthly payments that are reasonable and fit within your budget with your provider. Since the provider only wants their money, they typically don't charge interest on payment plans. When you work out a payment plan with your medical provider, it should not involve a hit to your credit score.

When setting this payment plan, be sure you set the monthly payment amount to be under what you can afford. Higher payments are too easy to get behind on, and it could take just a single missed payment to violate your agreement.

If you cannot get the doctor or hospital to work with you, you can enlist the help of a professional or nonprofit to work on your behalf. You may have to hire a lawyer. They have experience working with larger institutions like hospitals to get debt cleared or discounted. You may not prefer this way of dealing with the situation, but it may be your only course of action when you are facing thousands and thousands of dollars in medical bills you cannot pay.

Last, but not least, don’t overlook the power of crowdfunding. It is becoming a popular way to gather small donations from kind and caring people to support a worthy cause. Gofundme.com and GiveForward.com are just two crowdfunding websites where you can set up a medical campaign and goal amount.