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Tips for Dealing with Medical Bills

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Thank you so much for all the well thought out advice regarding the sale of our house. I really haven’t put much thought into it because I do know that 1) I’m not on solid ground financially YET and 2) you are right, I am pretty sure that I do not want to live in this tiny town after Princess graduates.

All your notes were really appreciated. Especially since…someday…I want to have my own home.

But moving on…

We have started receiving the bills for Sea Cadet’s hospital stay. So far, the total is right around $3,100.

So today, I come to you to ask for any advice on calling medical bills…

  1. Has anyone had any luck negotiating the total down when you can’t pay in full right away?
  2. I know we will be able to get him started on a payment plan.
  3. Any other tips for when we call, rather he calls?

We are going to wait another week in hopes that they will all have arrived, and then make a plan. I don’t want him to commit to multiple payment plans that run the total payment too high for him. Any tips for how to approach these phone call are greatly appreciated!

The good news is that he has already committed to his next step after he completes his Advanced EMT schooling. He will have full insurance coverage come August! More on that down the road…


37 Comments

  • Reply Nicole |

    I think you and Ashley have each said you are somehow connected on facebook. She had extensive medical bills (debt) from a mystery illness of her husband. She may have some hard-earned advice that she would share with you personally.

  • Reply jj |

    I am hoping that his youth will play a factor, maybe as he is working hard towards other goals they can be lenient? Also, although many have said no to helping him – perhaps you can help him with some of it?? :/ :/ :/ Poor guy.

    • Reply Cheryl |

      He was offered healthcare and chose not to buy it. Why shouldn’t the hospital and doctors get paid. Hope felt he was old enough to make that decision, so he needs to pay his bills. Wonder if he got insurance now.

      • Reply jj |

        She says he will be getting insurance in August. I am not saying they don’t deserve to be paid- my brother is a doctor and deserves payment for his hard work. But the American healthcare system is broken, and people shouldn’t have life crushing debt because of politicians playing with their healthcare. Everyone else is advising him to negotiate down too.

  • Reply Laura |

    The bills will keep coming for weeks if not months. Surgeons and anesthesiologists bill separately from the hospital. If you went to the ER first that will be billed separately. This $3,100 is the tip of the iceberg. Some you may be able to have reduced and combined for a payment plan. You will have to call and see. Don’t let any due dates pass while you are waiting for other bills to come before you call.

  • Reply Shanna |

    Laura is right. Bills can come in for years. We just received an ambulance bill for my daughter from May 2017, and I had followed up on everyone I saw on the insurance EOB to make sure we were on all of it. Be proactive and call on everything right away, ask for itemized bills for every single person that bills you. There are often many errors. Medical Insurance is a necessity, hope he has learned his lesson on this one. My overnight stay with a minor surgery was $75,000 (with insurance we paid $1500 of it). I would assume he will get billed at least $25,000 to $50,000 in charges that will need to be negotiated. Every dr that came in contact with him will have a separate bill, as well as the ER care, the surgery department, the recovery department, overnight room, hospitalist,meds, pharmacists, etc. It is a broken system but he will have to deal with it for a long time. I wish you both luck in navigating this, it is not easy.

  • Reply Megan |

    Bills can keep showing up for a long time. I received the last bill for the birth of a child 10 months afterwards. Many medical facilities have payment plans and will settle for less money. He should call and ask about his options for payment plans or assistance programs. He should work on reading about how to handle negotiating costs down. Some places will work with you but only if you ask. He should also make sure he doesn’t get double billed for anything.

  • Reply Walnut |

    As much as possible, make sure your son is owning this situation and being proactive. Give him a big envelope to start collecting all documentation. He’ll want to search for the financial aid department at the hospital, doctor’s offices, etc right away and start asking how he can get assistance. Sometimes billing rates are different if you’re paying out of pocket versus with insurance and it is likely that he qualifies for assistance based on being a student and (assumed) low income.

    I went to the ER when I was a student and the hospital wrote off my post-insurance balance for the trip, but I had to go through all the hoops to document my income and expenses. My parents didn’t bail me out of this other than to act as a sounding board as I tried to figure out how to complete all the forms.

    I agree with the others – bills will come forever. One of the conveniences of health insurance is that they have online portals that help keep track of everything. Since your son doesn’t have this luxury, using the outside of that large envelope to keep track of phone calls made, people talked to (write down their names, direct contact phone lines, confirmation numbers, etc.) will help him keep track. Keeping all the information in a spreadsheet is also a great idea to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

    • Reply Hope |

      We have already applied at the hospital financial aid department. We are going to start calling next week. And will create a plan of action.

  • Reply Kerry |

    I’m listening to the podcast “An Arm And A Leg” and the episode “Is the future of healthcare at the Renaissance Fair?’ might be useful for you both to listen to.

  • Reply Jessica |

    I thought he was eligible for Medicaid due to his adoption? Is there any way he could look into that and try to get his coverage backdated? I know sometimes that can be done for emergency situations

  • Reply Drmaddog |

    My guess would be he aged out of state coverage from his adoption when he was 18. And I though she said that he didn’t qualify for Medicaid due to income.

    The bills often take longer because they have to route through insurance. Since he doesn’t have any, he may get the final tally sooner. Not by next week, but maybe in a few months.

    I don’t know what advice to give that isn’t already been said. It’s just really too bad that he’s going to be saddled with this kind of debt so young. Really starts his adult life off on the wrong foot. I hope he learns from it.

    • Reply Cwaltz |

      He appears to be in school though so you would figure as long as he was in school that he would not age out until 26 since policies have allowed kids to remain on parents coverage until that age while in school previously. Heck, kids not in school now are allowed to remain on parents plan until 26.

      He might mention to hospital administrators that he is in an EMT program. I know that HCA did not offer me insurance when I worked for them but they did allow half off my bill when I worked as a pharmacy technician for their medical system.

      • Reply Kerry |

        But Hope does not have employer-sponsored health coverage. The ability to cover children until age 26 was a hallmark of the Obamacare changes. Hope’s son would have to obtain Medicaid insurance on his own, but through his own employer, or try to find an exchange plan if available.

        • Reply Hope |

          That is correct. And he does not qualify for Medicaid, he makes too much money. I know many hold me responsible for his lack of insurance, but in this case, it truly was his decision. And one that he will learn from…thankfully, he still lives at home, etc. so having to pay his own bills will not break him. He will have less spending money and might decided that insurance is worth it for him.

      • Reply Hope |

        Yes, we are hoping they will give him not only a cash discount, but also a student/EMT discount as well. He is also a volunteer firefighter for this county. We will definitely hit up all the angles.

  • Reply Sarah |

    Ask for a cash discount. They should be able to give you at least 30% and maybe up to 50%. We are members of Christian Healthcare Ministries and always get a discount. Not sure if they would give a discount if you need a payment plan. It might be pay in full now and we will give you the discount.

    • Reply scarr |

      Generally, cash discounts are for when you pay in full – not payment plan. They give the discount for receiving all of the money upfront instead of having to wait for it.

      • Reply Hope |

        That was my thought to, but I guess we can still ask…the worst they can say is “No.” And then we will have to create a plan of action.

  • Reply Meg |

    https://www.georgiawatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Georgia-Consumer-Guide-for-Medical-Bills-and-Debt_web_final.pdf

    Not sure if this will be helpful. Hospitals usually have specific financial aid departments and criteria as to who gets assistance for free or reduced care. It is very hit or miss with doctors, radiologists, outside labs, etc. My DH was just hospitalized for 3 days. Hospital bill was $10k. He was there for IV antibiotics and was admitted through the hospital ER. The ER bill was included with the hospital bill this time. I don’t recall seeing that ever before. Billing practices vary wildly.

    I was surprised once by a doctors office that offered to reduce their bill (without me asking) for surgery after my insurance had paid their portion. I had already paid part of the bill but didn’t want to clean out my HSA until I knew all the bills had come in.

  • Reply Akasha |

    Just call and offer something very low per month. Say it’s all you can afford. I did that once when I got a $525 medical bill. I paid only $25 a month and paid it off 8 months later when I didn’t have any obligations on pay day. Good luck.

    • Reply Hope |

      Yes, that’s the plan. I was just hoping to have all the different bills…because $25 a month to four different places is doable, but 8 or 10 could be a different story. Make sense?

  • Reply Jodi |

    I’m having a hard time understanding how you can accept tax breaks for the adoption of the twins, but you are not providing the care that wouldn’t be excepted to go along with it. You accepted to provide them with necessities like food, shelter, and safety (medical insurance is a part of providing them safety) but then you’re also declaring them to be independent adults responsible for this themselves. I don’t think you can have it both ways. Either you accept the tax break and the responsibility (ensuring that they are protected with health insurance) or you don’t accept the money and declare them independent adults. Not both.

    • Reply Hope |

      I hate to tell you but the “tax breaks” you get for adopting are a joke! Seriously, a joke.
      And as far as the government is concerned, they were independent adults on their 18th birthday, before they graduated from high school. All adoption benefits ceased and desist on that day.
      Make no mistake my children, all my children are well provided for. Have never gone without any need and often get alot of their wants.
      I don’t think it is far fetched to expect your adult children, adopted or not, to begin contributing their own financial future. And frankly am offended that someone would even consider that I don’t care for my children.

  • Reply Ashley |

    No one has mentioned this yet… August is still 6 months away. What if, god forbid, he get sick or in an accident in that time frame? Another thing he (with your help and guidance) should be doing is looking to see if there is any coverage he can get to bridge the gap between now and August. I know some coverage may be cost prohibitive, but it is worth uncovering as many stones as possible to see if he can get some sort of coverage ASAP just in case.

    • Reply Jessica |

      That just shows nothing was learned from this, honestly. He is going to be without insurance yet again and nobody thinks this is an issue

    • Reply Laura |

      I’m assuming whatever was serious enough to need 2 surgeries and a week in the hospital will also require follow up care.

      • Reply Hope |

        He will be visiting the urologist who did his surgery. But we’ve already called and are prepared for that office visit fee.

        • Reply Kate |

          Usually if it is a postop visit the billing is included with the surgery (part of the “global fee”) but I don’t know if this extends to cash pay. I’m sure you are learning that people paying out of pocket always are charged more than insurance is.

  • Reply Malady |

    Just chiming in with horror at the American health care system.

    Australia’s Medicare (universal healthcare) system isn’t perfect, but if this situation happened to me tomorrow, I’d have no bills. I pay a small amount from my taxes each year in a Medicare levy. It’s great and I’m grateful for it. I wonder if this will become an election issue for Americans with Bernie Sanders being pro-Medicare.

    • Reply jj |

      As a Canadian with universal healthcare, I feel your horror. Just bonkers that people have to go through this. It will continue to be an election issue definitely.

  • Reply Cheryl |

    He was offered healthcare at a cost that was probably lower then buying it himself but he declined. Now he is expecting the hospital, doctors, and everyone else to give him a discount. He will pay more then if he paid for the insurance outright. You need to insist he is covered till August, you can’t really believe that a doctor’s visit will be all he might need.

  • Reply jj |

    I just realized he is 26. That’s old enough to be making decisions like this, kinda. But I can see why people think she should have made him get it – that’s parenting. At 26, I wasn’t covered for dental and prescription anymore, but my mom didn’t force me to get it – I have never had a job with additional coverage. Luckily I have not needed it, but now I am 31 going on 32, and for the first time I am considering it – after I paid almost $400 towards dental work this year (and that is with my dentist being generous).

  • Reply Deb |

    I would recommend that your son start making phone calls as soon as the bills arrive in the mail. It would be in his benefit to contact the providers offices to make arrangements for payment plans. Your statement “I don’t want him to commit to multiple payment plans that will run the total payment too high for him” is ridiculous considering he chose not to obtain insurance through his employer.

    He choose not to obtain health insurance. He choose not to obtain any coverage for his health care. He went to the hospital to receive care that was needed for his health. He should be the responsible party to contact the providers offices to make the payment plans. If he has to make multiple payment plans so be it due to his choices.

    He can always work another job or pick up some extra shifts once he is cleared to go back to work with out limitations. This will be a good eye opening experience for him to learn how to make appropriate choices and how to manage a large amount of debt with what income he has. It may be difficult for you to watch him go through this but you are not responsible for his medical bills. If you choose to help him with payments then that is your decision but it would not be in his best interests since you have your own debts to manage.

So, what do you think ?