Negotiating Medical Bills

Updated on June 02, 2010
A.W. asks from Irving, TX
19 answers

Hey everyone! My daughter just spent 2 weeks at Children's Hospital with pneumonia and had surgery and obviously a lot of other expenses including an emergency helicopter ride to the hospital. We do have good health insurance but of course with everything that she went through we have a huge amount of out of pocket expenses. My family lives paycheck to paycheck and we have a little in savings but not enough to pay all of the bills. I have read a lot online about being able to negotiate medical bills down to as little as paying only 40% of my portion of the bill but I am clueless as to how to do this. Does anyone have any experience with negotiating medical bills? I know that we can get on payment plans but we don't have any extra money month to month for any other bills so I would like to negotiate the bills down and just pay them off with what we do have in savings. If anyone has any suggestions on how we can do this or any other way we can save some money on these medical bills it would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for all of the advice! I really appreciate it... Hopefully we can get through this and get on good payment plans to eventually get the bills paid off.... Thanks!!

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T.G.

answers from St. Louis on

All I can say is call patient billing and ask them to send you the financial aid forms. We did and they cut the amount we owed by 80%. Then we got set up on a payment plan we could afford. We have a young daughter who has bilateral grade 5 kidney reflux, so we are at the hospital a lot. I know, bills add up fast!!!
Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful

C..

answers from Chicago on

I had to pay out of pocket for my daughters birth. I sent the doctor a letter and spoke to the billing office by phone and told them I couldn't afford to pay anything out of pocket. Just call the billing department and tell them you cannot afford it and if they can reduce the bill by 40% and they'll do it.

A payment plan can also be arranged. I used to send them $10-$20 a month until I was able to pay the whole thing. I never had a problem with them.

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S.B.

answers from Minneapolis on

First, make sure to go through all the bills and look for items that you may have been charged for but never received. I know it is hard to do since alot of it is in "medicalese," but you might be surprised to see tests that were never done or days charged that your daughter was not there for.

Second, sit down with someone in the financial department of the hospital and start negotiating. Often, there is a large discount for people paying cash. Also, make sure that they are applying your discounted insurance rates to YOUR balance that is still outstanding.

Third, ask if your hospital has a "grant program" to help financially needy families pay for medical bills. These grants will pay anything from a few dollars to all of the bill. Often, you have to apply for assistance at the county level and be denied in order to receive the hospital grant (they want to make sure that there is no other source available to you to help with the bills).

You will find that the financial dept is probably very happy to work with you and they are usually very nice folks to work with.

Good luck!

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C.J.

answers from Dallas on

Yes. Call the hospital and see if you can access charity care funds. Also some hospitals have in house (but not related to hosptial) services one I have read about is RAC. These services help you access a variety of funds including any government support and help you fill out paper work and help get you set up on a payment plan with the hospital/doctors, etc. if no other funding is available.
You may also consider talking to a patient advocate. They are employed by the hospital, but have a lot of resources to support the patient and their families, among other things.
Finally, be sure to go through your bill with a fine tooth comb with the advocate or a skilled medical biller and be sure that what they coded is what you got. I don't think it is on purpose, just sometimes they code things and they aren't quite right and can end up costing you excess.

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K.P.

answers from New York on

Call the doctor's offices directly and ask to speak with their business manager. Have a frank dialogue about your situation and see if they can speak with your insurance carrier. Considering your daughter's situation, they were likely considered "emergency" procedures and many practitioners were likely out-of-network.

When my son was born, I received a bill from the NICU pediatrician who was out-of-network and called in for my emergency C-section. I called the doctor's office and they called my insurance company. In the end, I paid the bill and the insurance reimbursed me. My mother had spinal surgery several months ago by an out-of-network doctor and was able to negotiate the bill down by almost half by offering to pay in cash the amount owed to the physician.

As each bill comes in, start calling the doctor and the insurance company. Document when you called, who spoke to and what they suggested. Make sure to follow-up with letters indicating the bulk of the agreement.

If all else fails, most doctors will allow you to go on a payment plan that will stretch the payments out, with interest, into managemable chunks.

2 moms found this helpful
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B.M.

answers from Dallas on

I second momof2girls' answer. We had this issue with our daughter and owed around $700. My husband had just been laid off and we didn't have insurance so we sent monthly payments of $50 to the hospital. They did turn us over to a collection agency, but we were able to get the collection agency to lower the collection by $100 and we continued making payments only instead of $50 a month we went down to $30 a month. As soon as he got back to work and we had the money we paid the rest of it off. I would just call the hospital and tell them your situation, that you cannot afford the cost. I doubt that they will come down on the bill, but then again they might, probably not 40%, that is a lot to decrease the amount by, but I bet they will work with you on any small payments that you send in.

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P.L.

answers from Dallas on

My personal experience was that an MRI that I needed was $1500 if I had insurance. I said I could not have the procedure due to no insurance. They immediately cut the cost 50% saying that they do discounts for people with no insurance, plus offered me a no interest payment plan based on what I could afford to pay. In a different situation, I lost my job and had bills that I couldn't pay, so I wrote each creditor a letter explaining the financial situation and each creditor cut my balance due to 1/3rd of the original balance, stopped the interest accrual, and gave me a very low payment plan that I could afford on the unemployment I received. I had to complete paperwork to document my income, my household expenses and my job hunting expenses, but that was much easier than paying off bills that continued to get bigger with interest and penalties. Bottom line is, they will reduce the total amount due, they will stop the interest accrual, and they will work with you on a payment plan that you can afford. Your job is to ask for any and all relief available to you. When you explain that they can work with you or be a part of a bankruptcy, they usually get real nice real fast.

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R.

answers from Dallas on

Call the business manager and explain your situation. My sister was seen in the ER and then stayed for 5 days. 2 weeks later the store where she worked was closed and everyone was laid off. She called the business manager for each bill and was able to get some reduced and worked out a payment plan. I wouldn't let it go to collections. It may ruin your credit.

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L.M.

answers from New York on

I don't know about negotiating the bill down to a lower price, but I'm sure they'll be willing to work with you. You could also try to set up a payment schedule.

A friend who had a $850 hospital bill was having difficulty paying. She was sending small payments each month ($20 to $40). They turned her over for collection. She wrote the collection agency a letter and said she could only aford $10 a month. The collection agency gave her no problem.

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K.V.

answers from Columbus on

Any of the childrens hospitals will work with you. You need to pick up the phone and call their billing department. If you have already received a bill, an application for financial aid should be on the back. Fill it out and send it in. If you qualify ( it take a month to process) they will reduce your bill by a set amount. They will then work with you to set up a payment schedule that you can afford. When my one son was born he was sent home and after the first drs. appt. we were sent back to the hospital and place in the NIC unit due to gaundice. We had problem ended up being stuck with a 12 thousand dollar bill despite the fact that we have good insurance. My other son has a speech disorder and requires therapy ($172/week @ 52 weeks per year). Our insurance only pays for half a years worth of visits and then nothing. Children's did not give us much of a break, only 10% but have worked with us to arrange payments that we can afford. The helocoper ride usually is not covered by this and that is a seperate process. Also United heathcare offer a medical grant (up to 5k) to help parent pay for medical bills that insurance does not cover, you have to have a insurance and make less the 80K per year to qualify but do not need to be insured by united healthcare to qualify. You really just need to keep asking. I have been doing this for 5 years now its not fun and consumes a bunch of my time but get on the phone and call.

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K.B.

answers from Milwaukee on

When you call the hospital to talk about the bill ask for charity care and low-income discount policies. Not sure if Texas Hospitals have anything set up like that but if they do and you fall into either of those categories you can help get your bill reduced. If they do have such programs/policies you will need to provide finical statements (everything from medical and other bills, bank statements and so on to show/prove you can not afford what you are being billed for).

If that does not work it is in your best interest AND theirs to figure out a doable payment plan. Do not let the hospital billing people push you around, just simple say this is what we can afford we need to make this work. Otherwise they will send the bill to a collector (who may or may not be easier to work with) or could garnish wages or even dig into your savings (but that is what savings are for, those unexpected life happenings).

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N.B.

answers from Toledo on

I would gather the bills, your pay stubs, and a list of your household expenses and go to the hospital and talk to them in person. Times are hard for everyone right now. They would rather get a little from you than nothing, so they should be receptive. As long as you are paying something every month, they really can't do much, so don't be afraid of a payment plan. Good luck.

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T.B.

answers from Chicago on

I've called and just ask for a discount --- lot of times they knock of 15-20% right away. Also recently I was not successful and submitted my bill to medical cost advocate. www.medicalcostadvocate.com. I'm waiting to see if they can do anything. They basically act on your behalf and try to negotiate it down. If there are successful they take 15% of the savings as their fee. But you only pay if they successfully negotiate it down.

Good luck

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P.F.

answers from Dallas on

I've been there done that. First off, do NOT pay out all of your savings....there is a reason you have it, for emergencies, they happen. Like a deductible for a hospital stay, necessary medications, something in the house or car needs repairs, so many things happen in life. Once the savings is gone it is hard to build again. If you have nothing in savings what happens the next time one of you needs care and you don't have the deductible to be admitted? I don't know but please be careful; life happens when we least expect it.
The best way to negotiate a payment arrangement is directly with the companies themselves. Each of them. The good thing with medical bills is they are just bills, no interest or other charges can be added, it's not "credit" so as long as you are making some type of payments, as small as $15.00 a month or whatever you are attempting to make payments so are not in default unlike with a mortgage, rent or car payment. Make yourself a ledger of sorts and subtract each payment you make so you can see the end of the tunnel. I would still try and negotiate the total bill down but work out payments. Also, I have heard nothing but disaster stories regarding those debt resolution companies. Yes, they negotiate the bills, yes, they take you out of the loop and yes you have less to pay. BUT the big negative is that it can and most likely will destroy your credit for a LONG time. You can do it yourself. Be calm and courteous and reassure them that you intend to make payments. Oh and keep a record of who you speak to, at what number, the date, etc. Good Luck to you!

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A.K.

answers from Dallas on

Before you do anything--call Erica Smartt--she is a patient advocate who will check all the bills, work with your insurance company and help talk to all the parties involved--she has a very small (and totally worth it) fee--she saved us and also several friends so much money and aggravation! Her phone # is--1-800-513-1667 x705 (she is local)--her email is [email protected]____.com. Please call her--she will "go to bat"for you!!
A.

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A.M.

answers from Dallas on

Hi, look for the office of patient accounts or the financial-assistance office for programs that are offered. You can also check with Medical Billing Advocates of America at billadvocates.com for help. Good Luck.

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D.B.

answers from Dallas on

I feel your pain. Our youngest, who was born last November, is "special needs" and spent the first six weeks of his life in the NICU. That bill was a quarter of a million, our portion was about twenty-five hundred. Then in April he spent another two weeks in the pediatric ICU, we just got another bill for just over $900. In my experience the children's hospitals have financial counselors that you can call, and they should be able to help you find aid of some sort. I was making payments to the hospital where I delivered, but they failed to tell me that they had a policy that all charges had to be paid within ninety days. So while I thought I was making payments in good faith, I found out that they sent us to collections. I called furious, and spoke to them, explaining that I was making payments and no one told me I had to have the balance paid off within 90 days. I haven't received a bill since, not from the hospital or from the collection agency. Sorry, not much help, but call the hospital, ask to speak to a financial counselor, and see how they can help you. They've all been very nice in my experience.

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S.H.

answers from Dallas on

Hey - just wanted you to know that I totally empathize. My daughter (20 months old) just went through that same thing... 15 days in the hospital for pneumonia, surgery for epyema. It was awful. I was out of work for a month and a half dealing with it so this post and the responses are very helpful for me as well. God has provided so far, but I haven't yet addressed the medical bills.

God bless and I pray some of this works for you (and me!)!

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D.J.

answers from Dallas on

The hospital will be able to give you a phone number for programs to help. My sister was in a bad wreck and she had to do that. There are programs that will help.

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