Medical bills are a very common cause of financial problems in the US. An unexpected medical emergency or chronic illness could cost you more than you can afford to pay. Your bills could be even more costly if you made mistakes before, during or after receiving medical care. Try to avoid the following mistakes to reduce your chances of being sent unaffordable medical bills.
- Using out-of-network services. You should stick to health care providers and services that are covered by your insurance policy. Out-of-network charges can be prohibitively expensive. We understand this is not always possible (such as during emergencies), but you could research your options beforehand in some cases. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to call the clinic or hospital beforehand to verify they are in your network.
- Failing to request an itemized bill. You should request an itemized bill if it was much larger than you were expecting. Many medical bills contain errors that can be challenged. These errors may include duplicate charges, services not rendered or incorrect pricing. An itemized bill will show each service you received.
- Not considering a FQHC or urgent care center. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) offer certain health services on a sliding fee scale. However, you must be eligible for the reduced pricing. If you do qualify, then FQHCs could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars on basic services. Checkups, preventative health services, dental work, mental health care and specialty care may be available at your local FQHC. We published an article several years ago on how to find an FQHC in your area. Urgent care centers are also generally less expensive than emergency rooms. Depending on the medical situation, this may also be a good option for cheaper medical care.
- Failing to get preventative care. You may not require medical services if you take preventative steps to improve your health. For instance, it is wise to receive a flu shot during flu season. Thousands of people in the US are treated at hospitals for the flu each year. Proper diet, exercise and yearly examinations are also good ideas.
- Not understanding your health insurance policy. You should have an understanding of the types of services and medications covered by your policy. In addition, you should understand what the different terms used by your policy mean. For instance, how much will you have to pay before meeting your deductible? If you are unsure about the different aspects of your policy, then you should write down a list of questions to ask your provider.
- Not having health insurance. A lack of insurance could put you at serious risk of having to pay unaffordable medical bills. Hospitals and urgent care clinics could charge you the full price for services. With an insurance policy, a portion of the bill may be covered and the services you received could be negotiated with your provider.
What If I Cannot Pay My Medical Bills?
You may have a few options if you are asked to pay an unaffordable medical bill. Some hospitals may have charity services that will cover a portion of the bill. Check to see if you qualify for these services. The hospital or clinic may be willing to negotiate lower payments. They could also allow you to enroll in a monthly payment plan. You should inquire about these options.
Your options for reducing payments could be more difficult if you are suffering from a chronic illness or if the bill is particularly excessive. However, there are still ways you could seek debt relief. Medical bills are dischargeable in bankruptcy. The Kansas City bankruptcy attorneys at The Sader Law Firm could help you determine whether bankruptcy would be a good option for your situation.