How To Save Money On Medical Bills

You weren’t feeling well. In fact, you were really, really sick. You had a high fever and a lot of pain. Or you fell and you know something is broken. And as luck would have it, it’s late Saturday night and your doctor’s office isn’t open. Your Mom wasn’t there to put a wet rag on your head and sooth you with her words of love, so off you head to the emergency room. And so begins your foray into the wonderful world of medical billing. Unfortunately for most of us, hospitals need to be profit centers. Here’s a basic outline of a typical hospital ER visit and what you can to minimize the pain when the bill comes.

If at all possible, hold off until your doctor’s office is open

Obviously that’s not going work for you if there’s a bone sticking out of your skin, but if you’re running a low grade fever that’s responding to medication (aspirin, Aleve, Tylenol) then try and push through and wait until Monday morning when you can see a doctor without going to the ER.

Call your doctor’s office

Your physician knows you and your history and they will have an answering service that can take your information and your doctor can call you or have the service call you and give you advice on what to do. Your personal doctor can also refer you to a specific hospital if needed that they are associated with and can orchestrate your care better than an ER doctors who isn’t familiar with your medical past.

Visit an urgent care facility if you can

These are staffed during nights and weekends and are substantially lower in price. They don’t always take all kinds of medical situations though. Call first if you’re not sure of the level of care that’s offered so you don’t end up with a wasted trip.

If at all possible, avoid taking an ambulance

Ambulance service is rarely offered by the hospital any more, but is run by independent companies who may or may not even accept the insurance that you have. Since there’s no time to discuss prices or shop around when there’s a true emergency, you are at the mercy as to how much they will charge you. The average is $600-700 but can be as high as $1000.

Have someone go with you

You will need an advocate to deal with the hospital as far as your treatment if you’re very ill. If you’re not feeling well it may make perfect sense to you that they are ordering a pregnancy test even if you’ve had a hysterectomy!

Even if you’re very sick, you still have a voice

As mentioned earlier, hospitals are profit centers. Long are the days where a doctor came to your home, treated you and let you trade a chicken dinner for the bill. A recent episode on 60 Minutes exposed a national chain that required quotas for their doctors to reach for tests and admissions regardless of the care the patient actually needed. Stand up for yourself without getting in the way of your own care!

If you have insurance, make sure the proper notification is given

Many health insurance policies require pre-authorization for any service, even if it’s an emergency. Know what is required of your policy before you need it so you can instruct the administrative staff, who may or may not know the specifics for your type of insurance or insurance company.­ You can learn more about health insurance here

When the bill comes in, go over it with a fine tooth comb

Both computers and people can make mistakes and with so many patients coming in and out of a hospital, there can be errors in your bill. Medical care is expensive enough as it is without having to be responsible for paying for something that wasn’t even ordered or received.

If you can’t pay your bill in full, talk to the hospital

There are still actual people who work for the billing department at hospitals. Most of them will work with you and will keep you from being sued for the bill or it going on your credit report if you make payment arrangements that will benefit both of you.

Getting sick or hurt is unfortunately an inevitable part of living. And medical costs are going up and up with no end in sight! But with some careful planning and thinking things through you can minimize the negative impact on your financial health that your physical heath can cause. Follow these simple ideas to allow you to stay fiscally healthy even when you’re not physically healthy.

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