Will Hospitals Work Out a Payment Plan?

by Laura Lemay ; Updated July 27, 2017
Don't make a choice between necessities and a hospital bill.

Many hospitals will arrange payment plans. More than 50.7 million Americans were without medical insurance in 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Medical expenses can destroy your financial health. Tell hospital personnel during check-in about your limited financial resources. The hospital may have an assistance program that will cover part or all of your hospital stay. Review the bill for errors: They happen, according to the book "Solve Your Money Troubles."

Meet With a Social Worker

Request a meeting with a social worker or billing supervisor at the hospital. Explain your limited financial resources in detail. Francesca Wish, a social worker at Westerly Hospital in Westerly, Rhode Island, suggests that you explain your case at bedside. She can help to discuss your needs with the hospital billing staff. She may also know of community funds available for you.

Payment Plan Proposal

Contact the hospital's payments receivable department to discuss your bill as soon as possible. Request the complete, fully detailed bill, advises "Scam Proof Your Life: 377 Ways to Protect You and Your Family." Many hospitals provide only a one-page invoice at discharge. According to the author, the average patient receives overcharges of about $1,200 per hospital stay. Ask for assistance in reviewing the bill if some entries seem confusing. Make notes about any questionable charges. Ask a hospital billing supervisor to arrange a new payment schedule you can afford. If you are without any financial resources and do not work, tell the hospital. Many hospitals have special funds established for patients without the ability to pay.

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Ask for Full Discharge of Your Bill

Speak frankly about your financial situation." Kiplinger's Personal Finance" recommends asking the hospital billing supervisor to discharge your bill. Hospitals may be run for profit or not-for-profit. Many hospitals have the resources to forgive a bill when a patient cannot pay.

Emergency Room Admissions and COBRA

According to "Charity Care: Tools to Manage the Uninsured Population," hospitals must give emergency medical treatment to anyone. The Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act passed with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) in 1986 applies to anyone in urgent need. The patient's financial resources, citizenship or other status issues do not affect whether the person receives medical care. EMTALA applies to patients entering the hospital through the emergency room. COBRA health benefits may be available to those recently unemployed. If your last job offered medical benefits, COBRA allows you to purchase these benefits for a limited time. Retroactive health care benefits apply to the last day of employer coverage under COBRA.

About the Author

Laura Lemay started writing in 1996. She has published articles on Luxist, Paw Nation, StyleList, Gadling, Urlesque, Asylum, BloggingStocks and other websites. Lemay also worked at "Ladies Home Journal" and "Institutional Investor." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Smith College and a Master of Arts in education from Virginia Tech.

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