Are you confronting a big medical bill? Attack it with a plan — and these tips

June 30, 2023  -An enormous medical bill can trigger a wave of panic, but try to resist.

That startling invoice that arrived in the mail may not be what you wind up paying. Errors or slow insurance payments may have inflated the total. Even if it’s accurate, financial aid or other assistance might help pare it.

Sometimes a simple phone call clears up a problem. Other times, reinforcements are necessary.

Debt experts say patients should attack medical bills with a plan. Here are key steps to take.

Don’t stash the bill in a pile of mail and hope it goes away, but don’t rush to pay it without first understanding the amount.

“Especially if it’s a really high bill, consider it like an opening offer,” says Caitlin Donovan, a spokesperson for the nonprofit Patient Advocate Foundation, which helps critically or chronically ill patients deal with debt and insurance problems.

Medical bills can be rife with errors. They also may have been sent before insurance coverage was sorted out.

Donovan recommends comparing the bill with your insurer’s explanation of benefits. That’s a document the insurer sends that explains how your coverage will apply to the care you received. It can give you a sense for what you may still owe based on your deductible or the plan’s out-of-pocket maximum.

If something looks weird, call both the insurer and hospital for an explanation.

Someone at the hospital may have mistakenly entered the wrong code for the care you received or duplicated it. Request an itemized bill from the hospital to see if that happened.

But be aware that those bills also can be hard to interpret or contain errors that have little to do with the charge, Donovan said.

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