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5 Steps to Medical Debt

Aug 30, 2008 - 13 comments

I read this interesting article today about the five mistakes patients make that get them into serious medical debt.
I hope it will be of benefit for MedHelp readers, and possibly save you money in the future.

Summary:

Mistake No. 1: You ignore your bills
Mistake No. 2: You don't look for errors in your bills
Mistake No. 3: You don't negotiate the price down
Mistake No. 4: You're embarrassed to ask for financial assistance
Mistake No. 5: You don't work out a payment plan

Here's the full article link:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/08/28/ep.medical.debt/index.html

Warm wishes,
AT

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by PlateletGal, Aug 30, 2008

Thank goodness I've never had to deal with this, but I feel for those people who do. I do remember my insurance company owed ME money and it took me six months and many phone calls to collect the hundreds of dollars they owed me ! It was crazy what I had to go through.

This is a great link because, as you probably know, a Harvard study found out that medical bills were the leading cause of bankruptcy.

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by Mikem1027, Aug 30, 2008
I am a patient account representative for a couple of hospitals in my community.  Be proactive with your insurance company. It requires a lot of time and frustration, but don't give up. People that are trying are the ones who deserve financial assistance. It usually goes to those who are lazy. Dont be embarressed. Negotiate settlements and payment arrangements. Speak to supervisors. Good Luck people. In the end, your health is more important than anything else.

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by AR-10, Aug 30, 2008
The local hospital has been very good about helping us out.

Once they sent us a letter saying that they were knocking a thousand dollars off of our bill because they liked us. They really do like us, too.

Another time they knocked $1,300 off and set up a payment plan for us. My wife went in to discuss the bill and payments and that was the end result.

I'ts a small town and they know that we had no income. Still don't.
They have been very good to work with. We avoided the mistakes listed above, and made payments as best we could.

The financial gifts were our reward for trying to pay as best we could as the bills mounted. We make the payments faithfully and they patiently hope we will get caught up some day.

The five "don'ts" are very good advice.

We have many other accounts to be paid, and we have spoken with them all and most of them have extended me credit beyond my deserving. We pay what we can and they know I will pay them in full one day.



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by JoyRenee, Aug 30, 2008
Yes, but HOW do you look for errors in your bill? I don't know the price of everything and it seems like OUTRAGEOUS prices just for a little blood test.

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by 888mom, Aug 30, 2008
Oh, yeah, and sometimes you get bills that you never saw before that are 5 years old and you find out they never submitted it through the insurance company, when the insurance would have covered it at 100%.  This happened to me recently.  I NEVER got any bill previously.  Making sure you check your insurance after things happen to make sure things were submitted and paid for is also important.  99.9% of the time it happens correctly... but you get some idiot who doesn't know what they're doign in medical billing-- well, then you just negotiate the price and pay it out.  Yup, don't trust anyone I suppose... gotta rely on yourself for staying on top of things.  Don't assume that if you didn't get a bill that you don't owe money.  I guess if what I owed was a lot more than what it was, I might have fought it.  Legitimately the billing office is the one who goofed up.  But, yes, I also should have verified payment on it through the insurance company statements that I either received or in this case didn't receive.

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by motherofan18month, Sep 01, 2008
i went to the emergency room when i was 4 months pregnant for a major anxiety attack and my medical card covered the bill, but a few weeks later i was sent a bill from the doctor who had taken care of me while i was in the E.R. for $50.00 because he was filling in for the e.r doc who was out of town....the doc who had seen me was from out of town (10 hours away) not sure why he was filling in but i received a bill from the hospital he worked at explaining i had to pay for his services....and i didn't pay because it was totally irrational!!!!!!!! but as far as i know thats all i owe!!!!!

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by PlateletGal, Sep 01, 2008


And as one would expect, the statistics show that the chronically ill do not get the health care they need.  



Nearly 38 percent of chronically ill adults indicate that they have skipped medical treatment or did not fill a prescription, as compared with 22 percent of healthy people.  
According to a RAND study, only 20 to 25 percent of diabetics receive critical glucose monitoring tests
Two-thirds of patients with high blood pressure receive recommended care
Fewer than half of patients with heart disease receive proper medication
Fewer than half of schizophrenic patients receive appropriate medication.
Over 27 percent of the uninsured with chronic conditions report that they have not seen a doctor in 12 months.  
Thirty-eight percent of the chronically ill uninsured lack a usual source of care, and those who do rely less on private doctors (as opposed to clinics) than the insured.
Almost half of the uninsured chronically ill forego needed medical care or prescription drugs.  
Despite foregoing care, the uninsured chronically ill face an average of $2,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for health care in a 12-month period.



In 2003, of the 3 million uninsured chronically ill, 42 percent went without needed care, 65 percent delayed care, and 71 percent failed to get needed prescription drugs, all because of cost concerns.  

source:

http://invisibleillness.wordpress.com/2008/09/01/guest-blogger-why-your-illness-story-needs-to-be-told-to-change-the-world/


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by Barbarella, Sep 05, 2008
motherofan,

You are lucky that you got billed only $50.00.  Visits to the ER are not for free unless you have absolutely no income.  If you have some income they bill you accordingly.  You mention your "medical card".  Double check with the billing office if your card also suppose to cover for this doctor who came from out of town and was filling in.  Sometimes people with medical cards still have to pay some.  I'm sure the $50.00 is a lot of money to you but count your blessings if that is all they billed you.  

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by doni54, Sep 06, 2008
Thank you platelet gal, this seems to be a really good site.  I will check it out further.

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by motherofan18month, Sep 09, 2008
i have not seen a doctor in a lil more than 3 years now (except for giving birth) due to medical expenses....i have yet to find a doctor that will work with me on payments...just today my mother suggested a hospital about 1 1/2 hrs. away that will pay for my medical expenses if i am denied a medical card....i should be undergoing an Eco and many other heart disease testing as my mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather were diagnosed with all different types of heart conditions and were only tested because they suffered the same symptoms as i have these past 3 years....i am scared and not sure what to do as i definitely cant afford expenses/treatment let alone taking care of my family!!

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by Barbarella, Sep 09, 2008
motherofan 18month,

Do you live close to a city who has a Teaching Hospital?  If so call them to make an appointment and tell them that you do not have insurance.  You will get an appointment with one of their clinics.  You either will get your exams and tests for free or you will be billed accordingly.

Good Luck!

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by truebluebird, Sep 22, 2008
Every hospital and doctor's office has different billing practices.  Some, on finding out that I am an uninsured student, offer discounts or payment plans, others send you to collections (I recently discovered) even if you pay them monthly.  They told me that the amount I could afford to send them monthly was not acceptable according to their payment plan, and now I am dealing with collections.  My husband and I had a major car accident that wasn't covered by my car insurance (hydroplaned, and did not have collision coverage which would have only cost me an extra $15 a month - we could have had coverage for that, but are now over $10,000 in debt - check your car insurance policy!!).

Some hospitals or medical offices will negotiate with you regarding your expense, but be aware that some of them will stick to their guns regarding the amount owed.  I have also found that sometimes calling at another time and speaking with a different representative will get you different results - so not all of the people who answer the phone in the billing office will treat you in the same way.  Just try again and again - all it costs you is time, and it could save you a lot of money.  Always be polite - they are only doing their jobs as you do yours, so be respectful.  That old saying, "You can catch more flies with honey," is certainly applicable here.

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by Carious, Sep 23, 2008
How do you know you are being overbilled?

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