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11K Emergency Room Bill..NO INSURANCE
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11K Emergency Room Bill..NO INSURANCE

A few weeks ago I went to the ER with shortness of breath, dizziness, back pain and extreme fatigue that lasted nearly a week. I thought I was having a heart attack.. They ran a bunch of tests and didnt find anything so I was sent home 6 hours after I got there. I am 23, currently unemployed and have no insurance and told them this upfront. They didnt have me sign any forms to apply for some type of coverage.

I received the bill in the mail yesterday and it came to about $11,000. I experienced a genuine moment of shock and felt like I was going to faint.  I obviously have to work out a payment plan because I cannot pay this in one shot, but there is no way I will ever be able to pay this full amount. I simply do not have the money. I called the hospital and asked about their "charity care coverage" which someone had told me about. They told me I had to apply for meticaid first, and if meticaid rejected me, then I could try for the charity care. I am afraid of being rejected for that too. Although it was too little too late, I called a program called Just Benefits a day or two after my trip to the ER realizing that I should have coverage of some kind. I havent received my card and information in the mail yet but I should get it soon. I am going to call them on monday to find out for sure but does anyone think I would have any chance in hell in having the Just Benefits help me out with this bill? I didnt apply for it until after the hospital visit so I doubt it but I am just so desperate now and have no idea what to do. Everyone is telling me just not to pay for a while and wait until the hospital is willing to compromise with me because "they would rather get some of the money than none of it" but I don't feel comfortable with that. I could get into a lot of trouble I'm assuming and don't want to make the situation any worse than it is. I would never refuse to pay but I really NEED to find a way to get some kind of coverage. My head is a mess right now and I really need some advice. I don't know who else to go to. Please please please, all advice is needed and much appreciated. Thanks for reading.
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12 Comments
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172023_tn?1334675884
Don't ask them what they'll take, tell them that you will pay X amount each month.  There is nothing they can do as long as you make the payments on time.  If you are late even once, they can and will immediately zing you for the entire amount.  

Be firm.  Tell them for example, that you will pay $100 a month, or you will be forced to declare bankruptcy and they may not get squat.  They'll be grumpy, but they'll have no choice.  

But never be late with the payment, b/c they'll jump on you fast.
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Avatar_f_tn

Another thing you may want to do is try getting a discount from the ER, since you are paying cash. Talk to a supervisor and/or whoever you need to talk to. And continue trying to get assistance and/or consider writing to your Senators and Congressmen about the need for affordable healthcare for all American citizens. (if you agree).

Best of luck with you.... just pay what you can and I'll pray that you get some assistance.
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Avatar_f_tn
Thank you SO much for getting back to me. I didnt think refusing to pay anything for a while was a good idea either. Thats actually the advice that a friend of the family (who happens to be a lawyer) told me but it still didnt sound wise.  So far I have gotten 3 bills and wouldnt be surprised if more are on the way. The first bill was from the radiology department. The chest xrays and the CT scan was on that bill and their charge was $840. I called the billing department for the radiology department saying I wouldnt be able to pay that in one shot so the woman I spoke to immediately gave me a 20% discount and I worked out a payment plan of $135 a month. Then I got a bill for $35 for an interpretation of my ekg. Then the big bill was $10,184 for the emergency room services and their charges for the tests (the CT scan alone was nearly 6K)  I called the hospitals billing department and they didnt offer me a discount. They simply sold me to apply to medicaid and if I'm rejected, to call the New York State charity service and see if they'll help me pay for some of it.  I didnt work out a payment plan with the ER billing department yet because I still want to try to find coverage from somewhere else first and see what the final bill will end up being. I have to call a bunch of places tomorrow morning and see if I can find help some how.

Oh I also didnt mention that I went back to the Emergency Room 2 nights later because my symptoms were just as bad and I was afraid they missed something. I went to a different hospital however when I told the people at this hospital that I didnt have insurance, they had me fill out a form so they could help me find coverage. Also, I didnt have a CT scan so I know that bill won't be nearly as much as the first hospital, but it's still going to be a couple thousand I'm sure :-/  I'm just flat out screwed arent I?  I don't mind working out payment plans but if I have to pay X amount a month for 4 or 5 different bills I have no idea how it's going to be possible for me to pull this off.

And PlateletGal, you are absolutely right about writing to my senators about the need for affordable healthcare for everyone. I have always felt that way and now after experiencing this first hand, I feel writing to them is absolutely necessary.  Thanks again to the both of you for getting back to me. If anyone else has any ideas please share. I'll be checking this forum daily.
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Avatar_m_tn
I agree with Peekawho, but not Plateletegal.  

Any hospital would rather recieve $25 a month for the next 20 years, than have to hire someone to chase you down, and wind up settling for less, after all is said and done.

Your chances of finding someone to pay for a "pre-existing" condition is rather slim.  

You should write to your Senators, but not for free healthcare for everyone, rather for transparency for services rendered in hospitals.  That way, you would have known, before you left, what the bill was, and would have been able to establish a payment plan then.  Or, at worst, you would have some power over what procedures were and were not done.

You should have gotten some Short Term Medical coverage, which would have possibly prevented something like this from happening.  Health Insurance, like Automobile Insurance, is something you need to have in place, no matter what your budget, BEFORE something happens.  This situation is like getting into a car accident, THEN calling Allstate, and asking if they would cover the damage.

Work out a payment plan.  Pay what you can afford now.  As the years go on, and you earn more money, there is a great chance you will be able to pay more money, and pay it off sooner than you think.
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172023_tn?1334675884
And while I don't think people should do this just to get out of their bills, if life is truly impossible for you money-wise with these major bils, you can declare bankruptcy.  A chap 7 discharges your debts, but is fairly hard to qualify for these days.  A chap13 is a pay-back program, where the BK court looks at your income and your expenses and decides how much you are legally obligated to pay back--sometimes is a fraction of what you owe.  A chap13 is sometimes easier on your conscience, since you are paying back the $$.  

Overwhelming medical bills are the #1 reason for bankruptcy today.

Never, ever be without some form of health insurance in the United States.  Even a catastrophic policy will limit your financial responsibility to some point.  
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Avatar_f_tn
Thank you SO much for writing back. Your post made me feel a little better. I have been talking to different people from the hospitals billing department and they still keep telling me I have to apply for medicaid if I want any chance of having the bill cut back. I am still nervous about being declined for medicaid because if I am declined, then I don't know what else to do but in the meantime I'll apply and keep my fingers crossed. I am going to take your advice and send a little bit here and there when I can. Everyone keeps telling me that hospital bills are always inflated and there's no way they can expect someone especially in my financial situation to pay an 11K bill. I really hope not, but it's not looking great at the moment.

I got my Just Benefits package in the mail and it doesnt look too good. It's not actually insurance, it just gives you a 10-40% discount on your medical bills IF you see participating doctors AND you have to pay the bill in full when you see them.  I feel foolish being without insurance. It wasnt my first choice but I havent been able to find any insurance policies that were affordable. I'm going to cancel this Just Benefits thing after I find something slightly better, at least for the time being. I really need to see a GP as a follow up but I can't go until I get some type of coverage. I hope this all gets sorted out sooner rather than later. Hopefully this medicaid thing works out and I will do what you say and just pay a little bit every month. I'm sure they arent going to be happy but its really the best I can do for the time being.
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172023_tn?1334675884
You can't just "pay a little bit here and there".  You have to commit to a certain amount by a certain date each month, or they will quickly sue you.  I don't think you'll have to pay the whole thing either, but you can't just pay when you want.

Even if its &10 a month, you have to pay, and pay on time, or they will sue you for the entire amount at once..  
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Avatar_f_tn
My friend went to the same emergency room a few months ago and told me she pays whatever she can whenever she can. She said she usually sends $20 a month (her bill was $300 though, not 11K). I really don't know how this all works so thanks for the info. I already worked out a payment plan of $135 a month for the radiology department (which was $840) but now that I have the rest of the bill for $10K PLUS another ER room bill on the way from the other hospital, I won't be able to pay anywhere near $100 a month for the other bills as well. Once the radiology bill is out of the way, I will be able to send more for the other bills but I guess I'm going to have to work out a payment plan of maybe $35 a month for the time being. With a bill that big, would they even allow me to send such a small amount every month?
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Avatar_f_tn

Are you planning on paying this bill with your credit card ? If so, I would consider getting a loan from a credit union instead.... or call your credit card company and ask them to lower your interest rate. Most of the time, they will.

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Avatar_n_tn
I work at a bank so I thought I would toss in some financial advice for you.

Medical collections, which is where your bill will end up if you arrange a payment plan, DO show on your credit report, but are definately weighted differently in matters of financial decisions than other collections (ie you bounced a check or didn't pay the plumber)  

First off, apply for Medicaid, if they turn you down you aren't any worse off than you are now.  If they approve you, it would be a much better situation.  So stop worrying about the possiblity of a decline and see if you can't get some relief.

DO work out some payment plan.  As any business will attest, they want their money for the service, and would rather accept a small payment in good faith than no payments, or them having to pay more to get money from you.  A payment plan does not preclude you from calling them if you find yourself in a bind and making changes, and also shows that you are taking a responsible approach to your finances.

Don't overcommit yourself!  Make a plan with a payment that you can reasonably and normally pay back.  If you have extra, then pay extra, but make a commitment for an amount that will still leave you money to live off of.  If you make an unrealistic commitment you could end up in a worse situation where you are late on multiple bills as you try to juggle finances, or putting yourself under worse stress which leads to more bills.

Take care!
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Avatar_n_tn
Hello StarryNight23, since you have not written anything for several days, I'm assuming you have a plan that you are running with.  If however, you are still looking for answers I want to let you know this:  As long as you keep asking the questions, and more importantly, take some common sense actions (i.e., applying for Medicaid, paying as little as 10$/month, etc.) you will get out of this okay.  I promise you.  Use your head in order to make prudent decisions, ask the questions, and take action.  

Sean

PS: Tell me how things are working out for you.
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Avatar_n_tn
tell them you want to make payment but they have to accepted medical rates, this will save you thousands, people always use this tactic at our hospital
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