Avoid the Medical Bill Trap

The emergency room entrance of Parkview Hospit...

The emergency room entrance of Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the causes of being forced into bankruptcy comes from a high medical bill. Most people can avoid the medical bill trap by being vigilant on how hospitals handle collections on their bills to their patients. Here are some helpful tips on how to stay on top of your medical bill to avoid the medical bill trap:

  1. Preregister. If you know you are going into the hospital for a stay, preregister and plan ahead. By doing so, you will know approximately how much your medical bill is going to be, thus avoiding the trap of uncertain surprises in your medical costs. Not all hospital stays are expected, so be aware of your emergency options. Hospitals emergency rooms are not allowed to turn you away in most states whether you have insurance or not.

  2. Know your insurance coverage. If you have insurance, know what type of medical insurance you have, what it does and does not cover, whether it has deductibles and co-payments, and whether the hospital requires a certain amount to be paid upfront or not. Unless there is an emergency, stay at a hospital that is within your network. You can do this best when preregistering (see item #1). Check out all the doctors that will be working on you, if possible, to make sure they are in your network.

  3. Provide the hospital a list of medications you currently take. If you are on any type of medication, take a current list of medications you take with you when you check into the hospital. If it is an emergency, it is a good idea to carry a list of medications you currently take inside of your car, so that you or a loved one can provide the list to the hospital emergency room admitting team. Include the names of the medications, the daily dose and when you administer them (am or pm).

  4. Know the billing and collection methods for the hospital you prepare to use in advance. Some hospitals will bill your insurance and some will not. Ask in advance. Most all hospitals nowadays has a collections department or accounting department to help you with billing. Many hospitals will allow you to pay deductibles on time, and some will allow you to pay the deductibles or an outstanding bill over time without interest. Some state laws will not allow hospitals to charge interest on their bills, especially when they receive state and federal tax monies for their operations. You can ask about their collection policies before entering the hospital.

  5. Synthesize you bills. Most hospitals will help you with itemized bills for your hospital. Doctors will normally send you separate bills, but some hospitals will help you synthesize the bills under one bill to make things easier. It never hurts to ask for help from either side. Keep good records of the bills you have and have not paid.

  6. Stay consistent and current on your medical bills.Most states will not allow hospitals to become to pro-active in collections if you are using a community hospital. Always pay the hospital something each month even if it is less than what you agreed to pay on your bill. This will keep the bill collectors away from your door and you out of the court room.

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