In some cases, you may get billed for care at a hospital that you should not have to pay. Here are some situations where that happens and what to do:
Just because the medical provider puts something in a bill, does not necessarily mean you owe it. Many bills have errors in them.
Sometimes, bills include multiple charges for the same thing or you are charged for more complex care than you received. Upcoding is when a medical provider is not honest about the complexity of the service performed.
Even if there are no errors or upcodes in your bill, the bill may still be subject to serious price gouging. Medical providers get paid a different amount depending on who is paying. Generally, a medical provider will get paid about what they spent (or a bit less) when paid by the government. Insurance generally pays 2-3 times what the provider spends, and, if you are uninsured, your bill probably reflects 4-6 times what the provider spent. Hospitals have what is called a “chargemaster,” which is a list of their “sticker prices” for different medical services or items sold. These prices are highly inflated and you can and should demand that they be lowered. Just because a hospital puts a price on something does not, in and of itself, mean that you have to pay that amount.
If you think that you were billed incorrectly, upcoded, or price gouged, tell the hospital,
“I am disputing this bill. Please send me an itemized statement.”
Then, fight for corrections to the bill. You can use resources like Turquoise Health to learn what other providers in your area would accept for the same service. Show those numbers to the hospital and ask them to lower the bill to that amount.
Most hospitals and debt collectors will work with you to reduce the price. To them, getting paid a smaller amount can be worth more than spending time chasing you to get you to pay. They will frequently try to steer you towards a payment plan.
Here are some tips on successful negotiations:
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives you rights when dealing with a collection agency (or other type of third-party debt collector). Here are a few important ones:
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives you multiple protections and rights, the above list are just some.
Also, your state may give you additional rights. The FDCPA and most similar state laws will require the creditor to pay your attorney’s fees if you have to file a suit against them. For this reason many attorneys who represent debtors (or alleged debtors) will not charge you, and will get paid by the collector.
If you think your rights have been violated (or you do not owe the debt you have been contacted about), try searching the internet for “FDCPA lawyer near me”, “debt defense lawyer near me”, or “consumer protection lawyer near me.” If lawyers say they will work on a “contingency” basis this means that you will not have to pay their fees – the collector will have to if you win.
Check if you qualify for government programs like Medicaid, Medicare, or low cost health insurance for future medical expenses.
If you need help with other non-medical bills, call 866-290-3158 to get help from the team at Money Management International. They can offer advice and educational materials to help you build a positive credit history.
Dollar For can check if you are eligible, send you tips on applying, or even submit an application to the hospital on your behalf.
Are you already in the process of applying for financial assistance? Need help with a tricky situation? Use our contact form to ask questions or get help with your case.