November 20, 2015

Do you have an unpaid medical bill? 3 things NOT to do.

Medical bills are inevitable. We find them in our mailbox after every surgery, treatment, or checkup and eventually learn to expect them, even granting them their very own spot on the living room coffee table. The fact that we get medical bills so regularly means weWhat not to do when you have unpaid medical bills ought to know how to properly deal with them, lest we wish to risk creating more financial problems for ourselves down the road. By avoiding the following tendencies, you can keep your medical bills from becoming even more of a financial drain than they already are:

 

1. Pay Them Unconditionally

The Access Project, a nonprofit healthcare advocacy group, estimates that close to 80% of all medical bills contain errors. Therefore, if you’re paying your bills without looking them over beforehand, it is likely that you’re paying more than you ought to be. Common billing mistakes include double charging for a service, charging for services that weren’t received, and unbundling services that should have been charged for at a packaged rate; however, there are a myriad of other reasons why you could receive an inflated bill from your healthcare provider. With so much room for error, why wouldn’t you take the time to screen your bills for mistakes before paying them? It might be a hassle, but examining your bills for suspiciously high charges and haggling over them can actually spare your wallet quite a bit of shrinkage. In his publication Confessions of a Serial Haggler, President of Money Talks News Stacy Johnson cites a Consumer Reports survey saying that 93% of people who negotiated for a lower medical bill were successful. Additionally, Greg Voelm, the owner of a health care testing company in Sacramento, California and a 35-year veteran of the healthcare industry, says that these successful negotiations can lead to reductions of as much as 80%. These numbers indicate that any time devoted to deflating your bills likely won’t be lost for nothing.

 

2. Let Them Go To Collections

You might be wondering, “What’s the worst thing an unpaid medical bill can do to you?” Well, more than you think. If a bill goes unpaid for too long it gets sent to a collection agency, and from there the “debt” can be reported to credit bureaus, meaning it will start to show up on your credit report. Because the primary determinant of credit scores is payment history, a credit report showing collections will significantly lower your score and make it impossible to get a loan without paying a large amount upfront or in interest.  A 2014 research study conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau indicated that over 50% of all collections notices were the result of unpaid medical debt.  Don’t become another statistic. Even if a debt is eventually paid off, it can take up to seven years for the collection to be dropped from your credit report. Until then your credit score will continue to be impacted and securing a mortgage, auto loan, or other private loan will remain a more tedious and costly endeavor. So for the sake of your future plans, it is probably best that you, unlike the more than 64 million Americans who had medical debt as of last year, keep your bills from going to collections in the first place.

 

3. Delay Filing Necessary Appeals

As was mentioned, healthcare providers might incorrectly code patient information, leading to billing mistakes that must be sorted out by the patient and their provider. However, the situation can become even more complicated when insurance gets involved. Say you receive a treatment that your insurance is supposed to cover. As soon as you leave the hospital after treatment, someone will code all of your information and bill your insurance company for the cost of the treatment. If your information is incorrectly coded, it is possible that the insurance company will deny your claim, leaving you to foot the bill. To avoid paying for your treatment in full, you would have to file an appeal with the insurance company within a specified time frame. This is referred to as timely filing and it can vary anywhere from 30 days to 2 years depending on your insurance company’s policies. If you miss your window for timely filing, you are stuck paying for the full cost of your treatment. Thus, it is important to complete the appeal process well in advance of your insurance company’s timely filing deadline. Not doing so could force you to foot a whale of a bill that you have no business paying. Already guilty of these infractions? Reach out to the folks at DisputeBills.com by calling 888-622-2809 and receive your free bill review case consultation today.

Mariah Raynor
About the Author
Mariah Raynor

Mariah is a Content Marketing Writer and student at the University of Chicago.