It seems especially unfair to have gone through a health issue only to be slammed with medical bills that are causing you stress. After all, it’s no picnic feeling stuck between your healthcare provider and insurance company in an unfamiliar and confusing arena. The good news is that there’s assistance – if you know where to look. With that said, here’s what you should know about your rights when it comes to medical bills.
Make Sure There are No Errors
If you’re like most people, when you opened your bill, your eyes went straight to the bottom line. If the figure was bigger than you thought it would be, don’t panic. The first thing you should do is look over the bill(s) for errors and ascertain that you did, in fact, receive the treatments listed.
Also be sure the bill belongs to you and that your name, billing address, and insurance company are accurate. Further, if there are billing items you don’t understand, ask your provider to break them down for you in lay terms.
If the bill is from a debt collector, make it verify the debt and give you info about the collector as well as the bill.
Understand How You’re Protected
If your treatments began this year, you are likely protected under the No Surprises Act. For instance, you shouldn’t get unanticipated bills for ER services from a provider or center you were unaware was out of your network – until you got the bill.
Also, did you know that if you have no health insurance or pay for care on your own, your provider is first required to provide you with an estimate of what your care will cost? Well, it’s true. So, if you get a bill that’s at least $400 more than the estimate, you can likely dispute it.
If you’re unable to cover the medical charges, you should speak with your provider. Under the law, nonprofit hospitals must offer financial assistance programs. Also, many providers are amenable to establishing payment arrangements you can handle.
If none of that is sufficient, you can see what help is available through local or state social services. If you own your house, you also may want to investigate getting one of Achieve’s home equity loans to help you clear those debts.
Know Your Rights
By law, you may only be contacted by debt collectors about “validated” obligations that you do owe. So, make sure you have the debt verified. If the debt is, indeed, yours, you can be sued for the money owed. Ultimately, collectors could garnish your earnings or take money from your bank account.
Even with these possibilities, though, collectors must hew to federal laws. For example, they can only call you during certain hours, and never phone you on the job if you tell them not to.
Watch Out for Credit Reporting
Many people don’t realize debt collectors may not report a medical bill to credit reporting agencies without first attempting to get you to pay. The hope on the part of debt collectors may be that you’ll just pay the bill with no dispute. The fact, though, is that it’s your right to dispute the info.
Make Sure Your Solution’s Legit
Wherever money is involved, there will be scammers. Never give money to a service that guarantees it can block collectors from putting your medical bills on your credit report, for example. Likewise, stay far away from those who seek upfront pay for debt settlement services. These are bad actors who want to fleece you. If you need your debts settled, enlist the help of a legit, reputable company such as Freedom Debt Relief.
So, it is indeed important that you know your rights when it comes to medical bills. You do have some recourse. It’s important to keep your wits about you during difficult times that may work out better than you think.