Here’s How to Handle a Medical Bill That Caught You By Surprise
Figuring out how to handle unforeseen medical bills can be a challenge. It isn’t uncommon for medical bills to be quite sizeable. Thus, causing them to potentially put a significant strain on your finances. But even a small unexpected expense can be hard to shoulder. Especially if you are already dealing with a tight budget. That’s why, if you get a bill you weren’t expecting, you need to use the right approach. Here’s what you should do if a medical bill caught you by surprise.
Review the Bill
Before you do anything else, you need to review the medical bill to make sure the charges are accurate. Billing mistakes can certainly occur, so you want to ensure that you actually received the services or items that are listed.
If the bill isn’t itemized, request an itemized version before you conduct your review. That way, you can see every individual charge involved, making it easier to see if the total is accurate.
If you spot any mistakes, you can dispute them. You’ll need to contact the billing department to discuss the error and may need to provide supporting evidence, depending on the mistake.
Similarly, if it looks like a charge should have been handled by your insurance, speak with the billing department. It’s possible that it wasn’t submitted or that the facility has incorrect insurance information on file, which can cause claims to get rejected. Make sure that everything was submitted properly. That way, if an expense shouldn’t be out-of-pocket, they can fix the situation.
Check Your Coverage
Once you have an itemized bill in hand and confirmed that you received the services or items, if you have insurance, it’s time to review your medical coverage. Along with checking any explanation of benefits (EOB) statements you find on or with the bill, you also want to touch base with your insurer.
Look over your policy as a starting point. That way, you can understand your coverage levels. You may also want to call your insurance provider if you have questions, as a representative can clarify details about your plan and help you determine if some of the bill should be covered by your insurance.
File an Appeal If A Medical Bill Caught You By Surprise
If you believe that the bill should have been covered by insurance but they denied the claim, you can file an appeal. Essentially, you’ll formally dispute the denial and request that the insurer reexamine the situation.
At times, that can be enough, particularly if the denial was an error. However, if they deny it again and you still believe it should be covered, you may be able to appeal to your state insurance regulator. If your claim is found legitimate by them, they can make sure your insurer steps up.
If you do go with an appeal, contact the medical facility’s billing department to let them know. That way, they are fully apprised of the situation and can properly note your account, ensuring you don’t get sent to collections for non-payment.
Try for a Discount
After you are down to charges you legitimately owe, don’t pay right away. Instead, call the medical facility and try to negotiate. If you can cover most, but not all, of the bill right away, see if they could give you a discount. Many facilities will if the charges are substantial and you can cover the majority in cash, so it’s worth asking.
If you’re a lower-income household, you can also ask about programs to help make your medical costs more manageable. Many hospitals have options, including price reductions, if you meet certain income requirements.
Request a Payment Plan
If the bill is more than you can handle right away, see if the facility will set up a payment plan. This is a common option with many hospitals, as well as some smaller providers. However, they’ll only put one in place if you ask, so call the billing department and see if they offer them.
With a payment plan, you’ll still pay what’s owed but will have more time to do so. This can make handling the unforeseen medical bill easier, as you won’t have to pay it all in one lump sum.
What is something you did when a medical bill caught you by surprise? What did you do to tackle them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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