No insurance? What you can do about Medical Debt

By Rochelle Belnap, The Arizona Credit Law Group, PLLC

The healthcare industry has changed a lot in the last few years, and you may end up with more out-of-pocket costs than you can reasonably afford.  What can you do?

First, shop around and ask what it costs.  Yep, not every healthcare facility is the same price.  For instance, a surgery in a Scottsdale facility may be twice the price of the same surgery in a Chandler facility. You can call ahead and find out the cash cost of a visit, if they won’t give you a price then keep shopping.  Also note, a visit to a hospital ER is the most expensive kind of treatment, whereas visiting urgent care can be more economical.

Medical Debt

Second, ask for a bill. You should receive bills after your visit.  There is no uniform  system for medical billing and all the people you saw may work for different companies.   Errors happen, like they have the wrong address, they don’t know you have health insurance or bill it incorrectly, or they just forgot to send you a bill. Before you leave ask “how many bills am I going to receive?”

Third, ask about discounts. These days if you are a cash paying customer or you don’t have insurance, facilities should offer you a pretty steep discount for use of facility itself. Generally they offer you a 60 to 70% discount if you pay within 14 days.  However, you won’t receive a copy of the bill before the payment is due – this means you won’t have time to review or dispute any charges before you pay it.  The other providers won’t send you a bill for about 30 days and they tend provide a 20% discount if you pay it within 5 days.

These discounts are great but not really practical because most people don’t have a few thousand or even a few hundred to spend on every medical bill that arrives.

Next, review your bills. Mistakes happen, like coding errors.  If the bill seems a bit steep, call and ask about it. Then set up a payment plan or negotiate a settlement.  Do this to avoid collections.   Your payment plan can be pretty low to fit your budget.

Medical Collections & Credit Reporting. Once medical bills end up in collections they end up on your credit report.  In 2015, you must be an active participant in your healthcare costs and hold them accountable for providing you with information so you can pay them.

Thanks for reading!


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My firm has 3 goals – be cost effective & efficient, make complicated things simple, and change the way people think about attorneys. We do this by offering flat rates with payment plans, educating our clients, and by encouraging everyone to ask us questions to better understand what we do & why we do it. I am a credit attorney and I love helping people with debt and credit legal issues.

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