- August 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm #229308
If you were unfortunate enough to have an unexpected and expensive medical procedure, a quick reflex reaction may tell you to put it on your credit card, but the advice most experts would give you is best summed up in a word: don’t. Doing so will not only complicate matters, and most likely have you paying more in the long run, but it can also ruin your credit rating. There are other options to explore before switching your struggle with the hospital, to a (sometimes even nastier) struggle with your credit card.
Even those with medical coverage can often be slapped with an enormous bill after a prolonged hospital stay. Daily the various medical plans reduce the amount of what they will cover and for how long they will cover for. Don’t be surprised to receive a bill totaling thousands of dollars in addition to what your insurance already paid. If you cannot afford to pay this fully, most hospitals will work with you on a payment plan. In fact, they prefer this to turning your account over to a collection agency, where they will receive less money in the end.*
Often a hospital will negotiate with you on the bill and settle for less than what they originally requested. They are especially open to this if you have a lump sum at the ready, offer to pay the lower amount in full. They will not be as open to a reduced amount where they still have to be paid in installments. Be aware that insurance companies usually get a discount on procedures, similar to buying in bulk. Let them know that you know that you are being charged the highest rate on your procedure, use this information as a bargaining chip and request that you be charged the same as someone with medical insurance.
Appeal both charges by the hospital and denials from your insurer. Mistakes are common, procedures are billed using codes and an incorrect code is a common mistake. Also there is usually wiggle room on what an insurance company will cover and not cover. If they deny covering a medical procedure, ask if you doctor will write a letter explaining to the insurer why the procedure was indeed necessary. This will often work if your claim falls into a grey area of what is covered and what is not. It is worth a try to have the debt removed.
While it is preferable to use your hospitals payment plan over that of your credit company’s, it is not always possible, especially if you reach a deal with the hospital that rests on whether you can pay the reduced amount in full or not. If this turns out to be the case, make sure you find one of the low interest rate credit cards on which to place your balance. This can save you a lot of money, depending on how long it takes to pay the bill in its entirety. Whatever you do, do not just accept the bill as inevitable, then pull out your card and charge it. You have a lot of options and it’s in your best interest to explore them first. Don’t let your credit card health be compromised by the healthcare system.
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