The facts presented in a CNBC report are staggering: 66.5% of all bankruptcies are related to medical issues – either paying the bills or losing paychecks because of time off the job with an injury or illness.
Medical issues, according to the report, are at the root of an estimated 530,000 bankruptcy filings each year.
You might be surprised, however, to learn that hospitals and other health care providers are often willing to work with you about your bills. When you receive a gigantic medical bill, don't panic.
Here are some ways you can negotiate medical bills.
- If you will be undergoing a procedure or have a medical appointment in a nonemergency situation, ask in advance what the cost will be. Speak openly with the doctor or the billing office about your financial constraints and let them know that the cost is outside what you're able to pay. Some doctors and hospitals have programs that can help with medical bills, but they don't volunteer the information unless you have the conversation first.
- Offer to pay the bill in cash, if you can. Some providers will give a discount if you pay in cash at the time of the service since that will save them credit card fees and the cost of processing bills.
- Look for errors when you receive the bill. While the coding sometimes is hard to decipher, look for things such as being charged for the same procedure twice. If there's anything you don't understand, or if the price is different from what you were quoted, sit down with a billing agent to go over the bill.
- If you can't get a discount, explain to the provider that you will have to pay over time and ask to be put on a payment plan.
- If you don't have insurance, you'll be billed at the non-insurance rate. Insurance companies and providers negotiate discounts. For example, you could receive a bill for $800 for lab work. The same tests could cost an insured patient $235 – the amount agreed to with the insurance company. By looking in the Healthcare Bluebook, you can find the amounts an insured patient will pay. Ask to pay that same amount.
Medical bills can seem daunting, but you can try to negotiate with providers. If that doesn't work, consult with an attorney before filing for bankruptcy to discuss your options.