One of the biggest things causing financial hardship for Americans is medical debt. This is often the case even when the person has insurance! Getting this debt under control is a key factor to regaining financial stability – and hopefully avoiding bankruptcy. If you are a New Jerseyan struggling with medical debt, here are a few tips to follow to get things back on track.

Check the Billing Statement for Errors

Hospitals and doctor’s offices are not perfect; they make mistakes. Hospital bills, particularly, can include charges for procedures that were never done, doctor visits that never happened and drugs that weren't administered. Ask for an itemized bill, and go through it line by line.

After you have done that, meet with someone with the provider and go over it. My mother was hospitalized years ago and billed three times for the same procedure: the actual time it was done, one dated for a time prior to her being admitted to the hospital, and one dated after she had left! There is no reason to pay for a service you did not receive!

If your bills are significant, you may want to hire help to review the charges and perhaps negotiate discounts. Medical Cost Advocate, Health Advocate and Chapman Consulting are three companies that offer these services.

Negotiate the Bill

Medical services is one of the few fields where services are rendered without a price agreed upon in advance. You often have no choice but to have the service rendered, such as a trip to the emergency room after an accident. Many people think that the bill is the bill, and they just have to pay it.

However, I always recommend to clients that they review the charges, comparing them to standards for the area such as Medicare billing rates or resources like the Healthcare Bluebook, and then sit down with the provider to negotiate, immediately after receiving the bill. You might be able to get them to knock off quite a bit.

The important thing to keep in mind is you don’t necessarily have to pay the amount they bill you for. Health insurance companies don’t, so why should you? In addition to the Healthcare Bluebook, you could also ask if they will discount your bills down to what the largest insurer in your area would pay for the same treatment. In addition, you could:

  • Ask for a discount if you pay immediately or within 30 days
  • See if the health care provider offers no-interest payment plans.

Look Into Charity Care

If you just can’t afford whatever the provider will negotiate, there is another option. Most hospitals and many other providers offer charity care. If your income is low, ask to speak to a financial counselor about charity assistance.

Hospitals typically base the amount of help you're offered on the federal poverty line. Under those guidelines, depending on how you compare, you could get deep discounts, or even have the entire bill eliminated.

The bottom line is that you have options available to you if you act in a timely manner by giving the bill a careful review, comparing to data on the “going rates” and negotiate something with the provider.

So What Do I Do?

If you live in southern New Jersey and would like some assistance in negotiating deals, please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule a consultation in my Woodbury office to discuss your situation.

If none of these strategies are working for you, however, or you have other debt that is also weighing you down, then download my free book, Am I In Too Deep? A Guide to Knowing When You Need to File Bankruptcy in New Jersey to find out if bankruptcy might be the solution.

Are your creditors coming after you? Suing you? Do you want more information on how to fight back with your creditors? Then download my free book, The Biggest Secrets Your Creditors Don't Want You to Know. Become empowered and protect your rights!

Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.