Medical bills can be a hassle. It’s often unclear how much you will have to pay when you visit your doctor, and not all procedures and medicines are covered under your health insurance. And if you have children or elderly parents, their unexpected illnesses become your responsibility—creating a sea of bills and debt that can be hard to find your way out of.
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If left unpaid, these bills can wreak havoc on your credit score, causing the financial stress to spill over into other areas of your life. Luckily there are programs, government assistance, and other ways that can assist you in paying these bills, reducing your owed amount, or even getting rid of it completely. Here are seven ways to help alleviate the burden of medical bills.
Check to make sure your bills are accurate
The first thing that you need to do is to make sure that the services you are being charged for are ones that you actually received. Request an itemized list of all of the tests, medications, and exams that were performed during your visits, and ask for additional time to be added to your due date so that you can review the charges. This will prevent the bill from being sent to a collections agency before you’ve had to look everything over. You may find that you’re being billed for something that you didn’t actually receive, or that you were charged twice for something.
If everything looks good, you then want to cross-reference the prices with your insurance coverage to make sure that your out-of-pocket expenses are correct. If there are items that you’re being charged for that you thought were supposed to be covered, reach out to your insurance agency to see if you can be reimbursed or have them cover the payment.
Negotiate the prices
Once you’ve confirmed that all of your medical charges are accurate, there may be an opportunity to have the prices be reduced. Hospitals are notorious for overcharging for materials and procedures. However, these prices aren’t fixed, which means that you may be able to pay less than what they initially charge you.
Look into the average cost of the medical care that you received. If the price you were charged differs greatly from that number, you may be able to negotiate the price to be lowered. You can also ask for a discount if the prices are completely out of your budget.
Utilize Government Programs
If you’re still having trouble, ask your healthcare providers about the financial help that their hospital offers. According to the Affordable Care Act, certain non-profit hospitals are required to have a financial assistance program. They may have payment plans or forgiveness options that are determined by income and other factors.
In addition to hospital plans, the federal government also has health insurance plans that you can sign up for. They often have certain eligibility requirements, so you need to make sure that you’re applying to programs that you qualify for.
Medicaid: Medicaid is a state-based assistance program that services low-income individuals. There are no age requirements, as the goal of the program is to provide accessible healthcare insurance to all Americans. Pregnant women, low-income families, people with disabilities, and the elderly have all benefited from the program. If you fall into one of these categories then you may be eligible for Medicaid.
Medicare: Medicare is a federal program that is age-based rather than income-basted. It provides health insurance to people 65 and older. They also cover younger people who have a disability. There are multiple coverage plans available, some of which are free and some that come with a cost to the user. If you happen to be eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare, it is possible to be insured under both programs.
Children’s Health Insurance Program: The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a great option for families who don’t qualify for Medicaid but are still unable to afford private health insurance.
Seek Legal Help
In some circumstances, your illness may be tied to negligent companies knowingly selling harmful products. If this is the case, you may be able to claim compensation from these companies.
One example of this is the company Yaz, also known as Yazmine. The parent company Bayer AG denied that their birth control pills were harmful despite the numerous accounts that these products caused blood clots and other life-threatening side effects. If you received medical attention that you believe is related to these birth control pills, you may be able to sue in order to be compensated.
This concept is also true if you have to pay for your family member’s medical bills as well. For example, people who are dealing with asbestos-related illnesses are often older in age due to the latency period between asbestos exposure and first symptoms. Mesothelioma is one of these illnesses, and patients are often misdiagnosed or pass away before they know what caused them to be sick. Because of this, patients often need their children to advocate for them and to care for their medical and financial needs. If you are caring for a parent or loved one who is sick with an asbestos-related disease, you should consult a mesothelioma lawyer in order to see if you qualify for compensation.
It’s important to know the products, medicines, and substances that have been linked to malpractice so that you can advocate for yourself. These legal implications often have a statute of limitations as well as other stipulations, so you have to act quickly in order to be properly compensated for your medical troubles.
Utilize Third-party organizations
Charitable organizations are another great resource if you can’t afford to pay your medical bills. Here are a few that may be of assistance:
NeedyMeds is a nonprofit organization that helps people pay for prescription drugs and medications. They act as an information hub so that you can find the help that you need.
United Children’s Healthcare Foundation provides health care grants to children that are medically insured by commercial insurance companies. These grants can be used for a variety of medical expenses for children 16 and under.
Modest Needs is a non-profit organization that provides grants to low-income individuals and families who are struggling with a financial crisis. Similar to crowdsourcing, this site relies on the generosity of individual donors. However, Modest Needs does not keep any portion of the money collected and the money is given directly to the vendor or creditor rather than the applicant.
There are plenty of other organizations that can assist with medical costs. Do some research to see what programs and patient advocacy groups exist that offer assistance for your specific needs.
Although unpaid medical bills can feel overwhelming to deal with, there are plenty of avenues that you can take to make it more manageable. With a little investigation and the right information, you can find your way through these tough times.