1. See if you're eligible for the hospital's charity care program. To get started, you can search for your hospital's name plus "financial assistance." In most cases, this search leads you to the hospital's policy. Dollar For (a nonprofit that helps people) also has a form on their website that can help you figure out if you qualify for financial assistance.

Non-profit hospitals must provide free or reduced care to patients within a certain income range, which varies from hospital to hospital. It's not always advertised, so ask about it. This can work at for-profit hospitals, too, but may be more challenging since it's not required.

2. If you don't qualify for financial assistance, ask the billing office for an itemized bill. This will show all the procedures you received and the "Current Procedural Terminology codes (CPT)." Look over your bill (you may have to look up the CPT code) to be sure the charges accurately reflect your treatment. Medical bill errors are surprisingly common, so it definitely pays to look yours over carefully. Were you charged for something that didn't happen? Are there any costs that seem way out of line? Call the billing office and let them know.

3. If your bill is technically correct, you can try to negotiate the amount owed. "I always tell people the numbers are fake. They don't matter. It can always be lowered," says Jared Walker, of DollarsFor.

If you have some savings and you can afford to pay something up front, call the billing office and ask for a settlement amount, or what they'll accept if you pay the bill that day. Typically you can get 30 to 50% off.

4. You can ask the hospital to put you on a payment plan, which usually has lower interest rates than a credit card.

5. Remember this is a long game. You may not get anywhere with the first couple of calls. But keep plugging away. Write down the name of the person you're speaking to so you can refer to the call in the future if needed. And don't be afraid to ask friends and family for help making these phone calls. It's one way they can support you through a medical crisis.

Source: National Public Radio

For more information go to https://dollarfor.org/about/ or click on the video below. 

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Last Reviewed: June 13, 2023