How to Handle Medical Bills without Getting Financially Sick

When a recent client was about to undergo a surgical procedure, she called the doctor’s office to ask how much she would need to pay so we could budget that.  The doctor’s office could not give her an answer but told her to call the insurance company for that information.   She talked to several different representatives at the insurance company, and they all gave her different answers.  Needless to say, that was extremely frustrating to our client.

Unfortunately, this is not a unique case.   Trying to get a straight answer from a medical services provider as to the cost is difficult in the ever-changing world of healthcare and insurance.

There is little oversight. 

Our medical system is broken, and medical entities are charging whatever they want with little validation or explanation of costs.  In what other business is a consumer charged an amount up front and then asked to pay more after the event? 

You wouldn’t buy a new mattress, paying cash for it at the time of purchase and then expect to get another bill after you’ve been sleeping on it for two months!   

So how do you deal with medical bills?

Best Practices for dealing with medical bills:

  1. Determine your cost begins before a procedure takes place.  Ask your doctor, surgical hospital, dentist, anesthesiologist, etc. All who will be involved in the procedure.
  2. Keep good records during the entire process to ensure that you will not be billed for something that never happened. 
  3. If you receive another medical bill after a procedure, call the provider and ask for an itemized statement.  Once you receive this, check it against your records as well as your insurance company’s EOB (Explanation of Benefits).  Does this align with what you were told you would need to pay?  Were you charged for a full day in the hospital when you were there only half a day?  Did you actually receive the medication that you were charged on the invoice?
  4. Use Fair Healthcare Consumer to determine what fair costs are.
  5. If you determine the charges are legitimate and fair but still cannot pay, work out a payment plan with your provider.  Be sure to ask based upon what you can afford.  Most payments plans will be without interest.  

In conclusion, medical bills may be a part of our lives, but they don’t have to make us financially sick.