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What to do About Medical Bills

April 15, 2013
Plain English Version

If you are not on Medicaid or Medicare, or if you do not have great health insurance, you are going to get medical bills.

If you think a doctor or a hospital charged you too much, you are going to have to go to battle.

The first thing to insist on is an itemized statement of the bill. Most states make this a legal right for patients.

Know that in some states (including California) hospitals cannot charge uninsured patients more than they can collect from Medicare or any other public health program.

Write down what you are learning. Tell the hospital or doctor to put your account “on hold” until you settle the dispute. Send a certified letter to the head of the hospital saying you are having trouble settling the bill. This usually gets action.

If you have health insurance, go to the company. They must review your case. Make sure the amount you are charged is the amount agreed upon between the insurance company and the hospital or medical service.

You may not be able to solve the problems by yourself. Patient advocates can help sort things out. For either a flat fee or a share of the money you save, organizations can help you fight charges or lower your bill. Two are:

Medical Billing Advocates of America (www.billadvocates.com) and Health Proponent (www.healthproponent.com).

If nothing else works, get in touch with your state’s department of insurance.

Collection agencies go after everybody. You should always make sure you are not overpaying for health care.

Source: The Los Angeles Times

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