But when faced with a life-threatening medical emergency this past summer, the last thing on my mind was "how will I pay the bills?". Even with good insurance coverage, I still had to pay 15% of the hospital bills + a flat fee which totalled several thousand dollars.
The bills are still coming in from last July's hospital stay, so I decided to negotiate with the hospital on my bill. I've taken the attitude that with today's current economic crisis everything can be negotiated.
After several dead-end attempts in dealing with people in Billing I asked for a Patient Advocate. First, I explained my situation; then offered her a reduced amount in full settlement of the bill. Frankly, I was a little shocked when she offered to accept even less. She explained that the hospital would prefer to work with the patient in resolving the bill, rather than turn it over to a collection agency.
I know a lot of you may be faced with a similar financial problem due to unexpected medical expenses, so here's some tips:
- Keep a list of procedures/tests done to you in the hospital, so you aren't overcharged.
- Don't be embarrassed to explain your financial limitations.
- Start with the Patient Advocate. That person is there to help you.
- Never take "NO" for an answer, whether your negotiating with someone at your Insurance Company or Hospital.
- Don't ignore the bill, because that will count against your credit rating.
- If you aren't comfortable trying to negotiate, then find one of your friends who loves to argue.
You might not win, but then you're no worse off than before!