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How to get help paying medical bills

At some point in your life, there’s a good chance you’ll face a medical bill that puts some stress on your budget. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that in 2019, 26 percent of American adults struggled paying medical bills in the past year, with 12 percent stating the bills had a “major impact” on their household. While medical costs can seem sometimes seem overwhelming, there are ways to get help paying them. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Negotiate The Bill

There’s a good chance you can lower your medical bill simply by calling the hospital or doctor office billing department. Ask them about payment options, from spreading out payments to make them affordable to lowering the overall total if you can pay in cash. If there’s a payment plan available, ask for a zero-interest option.

Consider an Advocate

If you or someone you know suffers from a chronic or complex illness or disease, it might be worth your time to work with a patient advocate. This is a professional who can navigate the difficult world of health insurance for you. Instead of you contacting the medical billing office, they would do it. Just remember, advocates can charge anywhere from $50 to $200 per hour, depending on where you live. So be sure the math makes sense before contracting with one.

Ask About Assistance

If your bill is from a non-profit hospital, you’re in luck: US News reports that they are required by law to offer financial assistance to people who qualify. You’ll need to meet the low-income requirements, but it’s worth checking out. If the hospital is for profit, there’s still a chance it participates in a financial assistance program. The bottom line is that particularly if you’re struggling — but even if you’re not — you should always ask for help with a bill. The worst that can happen is the hospital or doctor’s office says no.

Chris O'Shea

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