When you suddenly have a health concern, one of the last things you're going to worry about is how much it's going to cost. There's no price that you can put on your health or well-being. That being said, medical bills can still take a toll on your finances.
In many cases, people in the United States do have insurance, but insurance doesn't cover every cost associated with medical care in all instances. What do you do when you get a surprise medical bill that you can't pay or don't know if you can afford?
In a recent news report, one 58-year-old woman reported going to a hospital in her health plan and still receiving medical bills for a total of $1,200. Even though the hospital was in-network, the doctors who treated her weren't. This might seem familiar to you, too, if you've ever sought emergency care. You need help, so you're not likely to ask if a doctor is in your network before you get that assistance. There are also no federal regulations preventing these types of surprise medical bills.
A survey taken by the Consumer Reports National Research Center stated that around a third of privately insured people in the United States had received surprise bills for their medical care in the last year. These bills have grown even more common as health plans have changed in the recent years. The problem is that even at an in-network facility, a particular anesthesiologist, surgeon, or assistant can be out-of-network. This means the bill is going to come to you.
How can you manage the risk of surprise medical bills? Talk to your insurer ahead of time. Once the billing is done, there's not much you can do about it except for negotiating for better rates and payment arrangements with the help of your attorney. As a last resort in situations of high medical debt, bankruptcy or credit counseling may be the only options.
Source: Market Watch, "How to handle surprise medical bills," Elizabeth O'Brien, Dec. 23, 2015