Everyone, regardless of his or her present state of health, sorely needs health care insurance. Unfortunately, due to its high premiums and the uninsurability of some patients, a lot of Americans are not covered. If the worst happens and you have a medical emergency, your recourse is to go to the emergency room to get treatment. It will be more expensive than going through a primary care physician, but for some people, this is their only choice.
When you get your hospital bill and you don’t have insurance, you will need to pay for it yourself. If you are strapped or economically disadvantaged, there are some steps you can take to work out a plan.
- Most important is do not ignore the bill. Just because you don’t have insurance and you can’t pay for the cost upfront, doesn’t mean you should stuff the bill in a drawer and pretend nothing happened. Ignoring it doesn’t make the problem go away. If you don’t pay the bill, it may go into collections and may even turn up in your credit report.
- Read the bill and make sure the all the items charged to you are correct. Make sure you actually got the services that are being charged. Also check the doctor’s bill. You may be erroneously charged doctor fees for services that were actually performed by a nurse or other technician.
- Call the hospital accounts office. There should be someone who can assist you if you need some subsidies, or if you need to work out some type of regular payment plan. Hospitals will be willing to work with you rather than have a bill completely unpaid. Express your intention to pay for the bill but explain how your circumstances prevent you from doing so. Offer what you are able to shell out at month. Also call the doctor’s assistant and explain your situation.
- Ask if you qualify for a Charity Fund. If you don’t qualify for Medicaid but don’t have the financial capacity to pay for your medical bills, you may qualify.
- Ask for a partial bill pardon. Depending on the amount of your bill, some hospitals may give you a discount from your entire bill. It will vary anywhere from a few percent up to half off your entire bill. It’s granted on a case to case basis. You may then rework the remaining balance in monthly installments or full payment within a certain number of days. Whatever agreement you come up with, honor it and be consistent.
- Be prepared to provide your financial statements. You may be asked for copies of your income tax return or pay slip to prove your financial distress.
- Ask for financial assistance from the community. You may ask for aid from family members, friends and others in the community. Your church, office or club may set up a fundraiser for you, especially for cases of long term illness where the medical bills are astronomical. You may be surprised at the level of support people are willing to give out if you let them.
Having a medical condition and having to pay for medical bills is stressful. Try to get medical insurance if at all possible. It’s better to forgo other expenses such as cellphones and cable TV if it means the peace of mind and security of proper health coverage.