Seeking Financial Assistance For Your Medical Bills

(Page 2 of 2 of Managing High Medical Bills)

If you can't pay your medical bills, you may be eligible to receive financial assistance from the government, a nonprofit, or the hospital itself. Check into all three possibilities.

Medicaid. You may qualify for Medicaid, which is a joint federal and state program for low-income individuals and families. Medicaid is set up by the federal government and is administered differently in each state. Although your income must be quite low to qualify, some people with higher incomes can get coverage if their medical bills are comparatively high. Medicaid is best used to reduce future medical bills, but that might enable you to pay your current ones. (To learn more about Medicaid, see Nolo's article Medicare and Medicaid: What's the Difference?)

State children's health insurance plan. Each state has an insurance plan to help cover health care costs for children in lower-income families. Contact your local or state-level social service agency to see if your children qualify.

Local assistance programs. Some states and local governments have assistance programs for people struggling with high medical bills. Some private nonprofit groups also offer financial assistance to help offset medical expenses. Contact your city or county representative (or local social service agency) for information.

Financial aid from hospitals or medical clinics. Most hospitals -- especially nonprofit facilities -- have charity care programs to help cover or reduce medical bills for some families. Eligibility is usually based on income and savings. Advertising for these programs is often minimal or non-existent, so you will need to actively seek them out. Many nonprofit medical clinics have similar programs.

Pursue Payment by Your Insurance Company

If you have health insurance, but your medical provider is billing you anyway -- or your insurer is refusing to cover all or part of a medical bill -- take action.

Contact the doctor or hospital. Make sure they have billed your insurance company.

Contact your insurer. Find out why the bill hasn

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