How to Bounce Back From Huge Medical Bills

by Ryan Yates

Unpaid Medical BillsNo matter how good your budgeting and planning may be, a medical emergency can throw a major wrench in the works.

Even for those with insurance, a long stay in the hospital can wrack up a major bill.

The good news is that a hospital bill does not affect your credit-unless it goes into collections.

The bad news is that you may find yourself facing a bill in the five or even six digit range if you fall ill and need care or surgery.

If you find yourself in this situation, know your options for keeping that money from ruining your financial health. Here are some ways to tame your medical bills:


Hospitals are often willing to settle on a lower amount than what appears on your bill. However, you will want to act quickly, rather than sit on your statements for a few months. If you have a lump amount that you can pay, call and offer to pay the hospital that amount right now-they may accept the reduced amount rather than wait and possibly have to use a collection agency.

Another negotiation strategy is to ask how much an insurance company would pay. If you are uninsured, know that the bill you receive is the highest amount that anyone pays for your procedure. Insurance companies often receive discounts from hospitals (it’s like buying in bulk for them), and uninsured patients lose out. Ask for the insurer discount. The worst they can do is say no.

Finally, talk to the financial counseling center at the hospital. Most hospitals have these offices, and they can help you to negotiate a payment plan that will fit within your budget. Working with the hospital to come up with a mutually satisfactory plan will keep your credit untouched, as there will be no need for them to turn the matter over to collections.

Dispute and Appeal

If the bill for your time in a doctor’s care seems ridiculously high, request an itemization of your bill. Hospitals are required to provide these itemized bills when requested, and it could pay for you to go over the list with a fine-toothed comb. Double check that you have not been incorrectly or double billed for anything.

Similarly, if you do have insurance and you have been denied coverage, appeal the claim. Coding mistakes occur all the time, and insurance companies require maddeningly complex levels of paperwork, so it is entirely possible that the denial of the claim is an error. If your care falls into the area where it is not clear whether you are covered or not, ask your doctor to write a letter explaining why your procedure was necessary. Appealing a claim is not a fast or easy process, but it can be worth it if it takes the burden of medical bills off your shoulders.

Don’t Use Credit

It may seem like an easy fix to the problem, but paying for your medical bills with a credit card or home equity line of credit would be a mistake. That would transfer your financial obligation from a bill that credit agencies do not look at to something that could really hurt your credit score. You’re much better off using your hospital’s payment plan-and much lower interest rate-than by whipping out the plastic.

Medical bills can be scary and overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that you have options for reducing the bill and making your payments manageable.

Have you effectively negotiated medical bills in the past? Are you currently burdened with excessive unpaid medical bills?

Photo by BLW Photography


Mike Young August 12, 2011 at

When we had a baby last September, we received a 15% discount for paying the bill in full before we left the hospital. It pays to save up and plan if you know you have something medical coming (or just have an emergency fund in general in case something unexpected happens)

Adam Gomez February 28, 2012 at

Like Mike, I was offered a discount for paying my bill in full, but mine was only 5 percent. I took my chances and hired a company that negotiates hospital bill, it took 4 days, but they got the bill down 45 percent, I was floored.

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