How to Handle a Large, Unexpected Medical Bill

Many people don’t have sufficient emergency funds to pay for an unanticipated medical expense.

A new study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finds that medical debt is the most common type of past-due bill or payment consumers were contacted about in collection.

The Wall Street Journal offers some good advice on handling the unexpected medical bill:

  1. Negotiate: “Simply asking for a discount helped Patrick Stark, director of financial planning for wealth-management firm RS Crum Inc. in Newport Beach, Calif., shave 35% off a $3,000 bill from a hand surgeon who wasn’t in his insurance network…. Consumers should start by asking for a 30% to 35% reduction to begin with and negotiate from there, he says. Offering to pay in cash can also land a discount. He also advises clients to call the billing office upon receipt of the bill.”
  2. Question Charges: “Don’t assume charges are correct just because they appear on a bill. So says Jim Napoli, chief executive of Medliminal, a company that helps consumers with medical-billing concerns. He advises consumers to request an itemized statement to catch errors such as duplicate charges.”
  3. Don’t Wait: “No matter what, experts say, consumers shouldn’t delay in taking action on a bill. The reason: Medical providers have gotten ‘trigger-happy’ about turning bills over to collections, says Liz Weston, a certified financial planner at NerdWallet. “