According to many financial and healthcare experts, surprise medical bills are becoming more common. As the cost of medical services rises and insurers are reluctant to increase benefits. As a general rule, about 20 percent of hospital bills have surprise charges, even for those who have health insurance. Across the hospital networks, there are millions of surprise medical bills each year that add up to billions of dollars.
If your insurance plan doesn’t allow for out-of-network care, your insurance company could deny coverage entirely and leave you with the entire bill. Additionally, widespread practice is known as balance billing, where you are charged the difference between what insurance covers, which can also result in higher than expected bills. A surprise bill might mean that you end up owing hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Surprise billing typically happens when all or part of your treatment isn’t covered by insurance or other healthcare plans. It’s most common in emergencies. Perhaps you fall and sustain a mouth injury that requires an emergency tooth extraction. If you don’t have a dental health insurance policy or you have maxed out your coverage for the year, you may have a large unexpected bill. Additionally, an ambulance might route you to an out-of-network hospital, and your care isn’t fully covered. In other situations, you may visit an in-network hospital but be seen by an ER doctor that isn’t in your network and receive the entire bill for that physician’s services.
When you are hit with a higher than expected medical bill, there are a few things that you can consider to pay your account balance, reduce your bill and avoid surprise charges. Let’s take a closer look at handling surprise medical bills.
Settle the account
Once you receive the bill in the mail and get over the sticker shock, there are a few things that you can do. Your main goal, however, is to get the account balance settled. The last thing you want is a medical bill to go to collections and show up on your credit. In many cases, you might be able to take a look at your insurance policy and get the insurer to help you out.
Suppose your emergency tooth extraction or another outpatient procedure wasn’t covered, or an out-of-network doctor administered your general anesthesia. In that case, you might ask for a one-time exception. You might also call the provider and ask for hardship discounts or other options to lower the high fees. Most medical bills can be negotiated so that you don’t have the total amount.
Once you have lowered the bill or exhausted all of your options, you will need to find a payment solution. Your provider might allow you to make payments, but that might come with additional monthly fees or high fees for financing. Some providers will offer a “pay now discount,” which will lower your bill even further if you pay in full. Instead of dipping into your savings account, you might consider a low-interest rate solution like the Tangerine credit card. A money-back credit card that offers cardholders rewards with no annual fee could be the solution for your medical bill.
Avoid surprise bills
To avoid medical bills that are larger than expected, you need to be your advocate and do your homework. If you don’t want to lean on your savings or open a credit card and deal with interest rates, you need to ensure that your medical services are covered. If you have a procedure planned, make sure that your insurance policy will cover the treatment plan and all doctors and providers. In addition, specify an in-network hospital if you require an emergency surgical procedure or other services. Finally, you can ask for generic prescription pain medication.
Healthcare can be expensive, and when you don’t have insurance or your policy won’t pay for services, you can’t get stuck with a hefty bill. With some time and research, you can find solutions for surprise medical bills and work to ensure that you can avoid them in the future.