We don't have the luxury of time for hospital fee comparisons when a medical emergency strikes. If we did, we would shop around first for the most cost-effective pricing before setting foot in a hospital. However, reality is different. We're grateful for medical intervention in times of a health crisis and direct our focus to intervention, treatment, and recovery with little thought of the associated cost. Indeed, financial reality might not hit us until we receive the first medical bill, and it's then when we become aware of the price tag we pay for medical care.

Reactions such as ignoring a hospital bill or reaching for a credit card should not be your immediate response. Instead, realize that there are some things you can do to manage medical expenses, and as a result, a favorable outcome could be worked out. All it takes is a few thoughtful steps on your part.

Prompt Action

Providers such as medical facilities and physicians must wait 180 days before they can report a medical bill to a credit bureau, but they could send your bill to a collection agency at any time. You do want to follow up with your provider promptly when you receive a medical bill, but before you do this, you also want to have a copy of the Explanation of Benefits from your insurance company (Medicare calls theirs a Medicare Summary Notice – MSN). You need both documents to review for any medical billing errors and accurate deductions. If you see a discrepancy on either of these bills, you only have a limited time for an error to be corrected so don't delay. If there are errors, don't forget to report this to your insurance company so the claim can be adjusted. Report and appeal any discrepancies to your medical insurance company within a specific timeframe; fortunately, information about deadlines for appeals are included in the EOB from your insurer.

Two-Way Communication

If you do find an error or have a question about any item billed by a medical provider or processed by your insurance company, contact the medical provider's billing department or insurance claims office about the error or question. With your provider, request a suspension of the billing cycle or collections effort until the matter is resolved. In fact some states, such as Florida, mandate that providers (in certain circumstances) must suspend the collections efforts until the problem gets resolved. This would be a matter to research if you encounter a medical billing issue or if you work with a medical billing specialist like Human Health Advocates, ask them to look into this for you.

Payment Options

Fortunately, with medical debt, it doesn't have to be a "pay everything now" proposition. Payment options do exist, however, the chances of negotiating a settlement are greater when the debt is not too old. The same is true of a single lump-sum payment at a reduced rate. A payment plan or discounted fee can be negotiated after the amount owed has been confirmed. Once a payment arrangement has been determined, request 0% interest and ask for the account to remain with the provider until it is paid off. To make sure the debt is not forwarded to a collection agency, document the commitment by having the provider sign a pledge not to report your debt. Your part is to make all payments in a timely manner.

Right to Dispute

If you disagree over the amount charged to you, then file a dispute against the provider to reduce medical bills. For billing discrepancies such as erroneous charges or services, send a dispute letter to the healthcare provider. You would also want to send a separate letter about the disputed charges to your insurance provider. Keep copies of all the documentation that you send since you'll want to reference it when you conduct a follow-up. You can always contact a medical billing advocate like Human Health Advocates to handle a dispute for you. Whether you enlist the assistance of an expert or handle the matter yourself, your best first course of action is opening the medical bill envelope as soon as you receive it.

Human Health Advocates, LLC, located in Boca Raton Florida, serves clients both statewide and throughout the nation. It is a very highly reviewed entity and affiliated with the Better Business Bureau. Its members are Board-Certified Patient Advocates who specialize in medical debt reduction. If you are having difficulty understanding or managing your medical bills and/or health insurance Explanation of Benefits (EOB's), reach out…get help…contact one of our Board-Certified Patient Advocates to schedule your FREE CONSULTATION. We review medical bills and health insurance determinations to locate errors in providers' charges and processing. We prepare insurance appeals for denied claims. We negotiate reductions in your medical debt from hospitals and other medical providers. If you have problems with your medical bills or health insurance, get in touch. WE CAN HELP!