5 tips to follow when handling medical debt

Medical patients with high medical bills have options, including negotiating and payment assistance.

Medical debt always comes when people in Tennessee are least expecting it. A sports injury, a sudden illness or the onset of a permanent medical condition can add up to thousands of dollars in medical costs. While insurance may cover some of these expenses, many people still find themselves on the hook for a significant amount. However, there are five options available for handling debt more effectively.

1. Look over the bill for errors

Before paying a medical bill, no matter how large or small, it is best that the recipient looks over it for accuracy. Medical charts trade hands between doctors, coders, nurses and intake workers, any of whom can make a mistake before the final bill gets to the patient's hands. Incorrect information that may end up on a bill includes improper tests, missing treatment details and treatment that is incorrectly noted. A medical billing advocate may look over a bill to see that patients were not overcharged. Any mistakes noticed should be taken care of before making a payment.

2. Ask for payment assistance

Patients who fall on hard times when they incur medical bills may qualify for assistance from the hospital where they received care. Additionally, there are also charities available to patients at the state and local level, as well as through faith organizations and churches.

3. Negotiate on a medical bill

Patients may not be aware that they can make special arrangements on their medical bills. With this specific route, it is always best to talk to the person who actually has the authority to make changes to a medical bill, such as a health insurer or medical bill manager. Persistence is key when negotiating on a medical bill. Making phone calls and sending emails are often a good place to start, but it may be necessary for patients to send a handwritten letter to the proper person to appeal their case.

4. Look up the cost of medical procedures

While a medical procedure may have been noted correctly on a bill, it might be listed at an inflated price. People can research the current average cost of a specific medical procedure and see if they can request a lower price. With both negotiating a bill and asking for a lower price, it is always best to request a written and signed copy of the new agreement.

5. Seek legal help

Patients in Knoxville should be fully aware of their options when it comes to taking care of high medical bills. Depending on the situation, filing for bankruptcy may be the best choice for a person to keep her or his financial house in order. Those who find themselves in this situation would do well to consider speaking with an attorney experienced with helping clients maintain their finances.