Ask in Advance for Assistance Programs
The majority of health care providers and facilities have programs in place to help patients with their financial expenses. But they don’t always tell you about them, so don’t be afraid to ask. The important thing is to ask as early on as possible, so you can get help before your debts become delinquent.
Check with your health care provider to see what they offer. Some hospitals have an uninsured discount for patients who don’t have adequate access to health insurance, and there’s even the possibility of medical debt forgiveness. Even if you do have insurance, the billing department may grant you a reduced fee based on your income level or if you can prove the expense is causing you financial hardship. If you are in this situation, make sure to come prepared with official documents that can prove you can’t afford your medical bills.
Set Up a Payment Plan
Before charging medical expenses to a credit card, you should ask your medical provider about potential payment plan options. No-interest repayment plans are typically offered by health care providers to anyone who needs them. This can be a better route to take than credit cards or medical loans, as you can likely bypass interest charges — payment plans with hospitals only charge the principal amount, which you pay back over a set period of time.
Make sure you choose a repayment plan that you can reasonably afford to pay off. If you can’t make the monthly payments, then your hospital bill may be sent to a collections agency. Budget accordingly for other monthly expenses such as mortgage/rent, car loans, and utilities. These sorts of debts should be treated as a higher priority than medical bills because non-payment could seriously impact your immediate circumstances, such as resulting in an eviction.
Offer to Pay Upfront for a Discount
This won’t be a feasible option for everyone, but if you have the funds on hand to pay most of your medical bill upfront, try to make a deal with your health care provider. You can reach out to the billing department and offer to pay most of the bill immediately. Also, if you can pay in cash, some doctors’ offices will discount bills for patients paying with cash because it eliminates their need to file insurance claims and pay credit card transaction fees.
Enlist the Support of a Professional Negotiator or Advocacy Group
While you could negotiate your medical bills on your own, there are professional medical bill negotiation companies that could do it for you. Companies like CoPatient, ClaimMedic, and Medgotiate will try to get medical bills lowered in exchange for a portion of the savings, often around 30% to 60%.
In addition to bill negotiation companies, there are also patient advocacy nonprofits that you can reach out to. Patient advocacy groups offer programs and financial assistance resources to help patients who are facing financial troubles. One example is the Patient Advocate Foundation, a national organization that advocates and mediates on behalf of patients dealing with financial health care burdens and insurance issues.