Seeking Financial Assistance For Your Medical Bills

Take steps to reduce, eliminate, or better manage your high medical bills.

Medical providers are often willing to negotiate your bill if you're having trouble paying in full. Ideally, you should contact your medical provider before the bill is delinquent or before the collectors start calling. If you want to negotiate your bill, here are some options to propose:

Discount. Ask for a discount on your medical bill. Many providers spend a great deal of time and effort tracking down folks who don't want to pay. So, when they encounter someone who is at least willing to pay something, they may be happy to make accommodations. (If you have a chunk of cash, use Nolo's eForm Offer to Settle Debt With a Reduced Lump Sum Payment, to negotiate a discount on your bill.)

Payment plan. Ask if you can pay the bill over time. Some medical providers will accept as little as $50 per month. Some charge interest, some don't. Get all payment terms in writing. If your circumstances change, contact the provider and try to negotiate a different arrangement. (Use Nolo's eForm Offer to Pay Debt in Installments.)

Down payment in exchange for reduced charges. If you are able to, offer to pay a substantial down payment (perhaps 10-25% of the bill) in exchange for a discount on the overall bill.

Getting Financial Assistance

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.

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't been paid.

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