How to Erase Your Medical Debt

By Jessica Harp on 15 August 2007 (Updated 18 August 2007) 62 comments
Photo: lynnieb

As most of you know, the cost of healthcare in the United States is outrageous! (Sicko, anyone?) For those lucky enough to have good medical insurance, an illness or an injury does not become a financial burden. However, for those without insurance or with sub par insurance plans, a seemingly small injury can quickly turn in to an emotional and financial ordeal. Interestingly enough, one of the best-kept secrets in the healthcare industry is that there are financial and charitable aid programs available to alleviate the financial burden caused by medical expenses.

Almost every hospital has a charitable or financial aid department associated with the billing and collections office. With out getting into the particulars, the financial aid department has a “magic wand” that can erase some, if not all, of your medical bills.

 

Who qualifies for medical financial aid?
To qualify for 100% elimination of your medical bills, most hospitals require that your annual income does not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level. If your income exceeds set limits, you can usually qualify for reduced financial aid.

Additionally, if you earn an income well over the federal poverty level, but a medical disaster creates bills that exceed a certain percentage of your income, then the financial aid department will usually offer aid to cover some of your bills. Most hospitals set a limit of medical debt-to-income ratio of 30%. If your medical bills exceed your income by 30%, most financial aid departments will pay for the portion of your bills over 30%.

The catch with receiving aid from a hospital’s financial aid department is that you have to exhaust all other available resources. First, you must utilize your insurance, if you have any. Second, you must apply for and use any other public medical benefits. If you still have medical bills after exhausting other resources, then the hospital’s financial aid department will consider your application.

 

How to you apply for medical financial aid?
The easiest way to find out if your hospital has a financial aid department is to ask. Call or stop by the billing office to inquire about financial aid for your medical bill.

You will usually be required to submit proofs of income for the 12 months preceding your medical care. This is how they will calculate your “annual” income.

You will also be required to list you assets. The financial aid department will want to know whether you have money in savings, checking, a certificate of deposit (CD), Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), trust funds, or equity in real estate that is not your primary residence. Most hospitals will require a statement from your financial institution detailing your assets.

If you do not have a job or assets, you will need to sign an affidavit indicating this.

 

When should I apply for aid?
As soon as possible! Most hospitals have a relatively short time limit (6 – 12 months) for applying for aid.

 

This sounds difficult and like a lot of paperwork.
It may take some time to fill out the paperwork and gather all of your supporting documentation, but a few hours of work could erase thousands of dollars of medical debt. Plus, you never know until you try.

I recently had a client who had $75,000+ of medical debt. (Yes, she gave me her permission to write about her.) This client went to the hospital’s financial aid department on Monday, gathered her supporting paperwork and documentation on Tuesday, submitted her forms on Wednesday, and had her medical debt erased by the following Tuesday. With 5 total hours of work, she was able to have $75,000+ in medical debt erased. Not only was a financial burden lifted off her shoulders, but an emotional burden was lifted too.

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Jessica Okon's picture

Harp, you're going to be making a lot of people's lives happier! Good post!

Andrea Karim's picture

Thanks so much for sharing this with us. If you have any tips for dealing with stupid-head insurance that refuses to cover your medical bills, I'd love to hear about that, too!

Guest's picture
Victoria

Recently a friend was charged $1400 to her insurance for lacing up a cut on the finger with a butterfly stitch. We were all outraged. This tip is surely one of the best I have come across all week. Thank you, I really mean that.

Jessica Harp's picture

Wow, Victoria, that's crazy! $1400 for a stitch?!? I'd be outraged too! Thank goodness she had insurance.

Guest's picture

That's really interesting. I watched Sicko and thought there was no way out of huge bills.

I guess I'm wrong. There is one solution.

I really appreciate the heads up. That may come in value one day.

Carl Zetterlund

:)

Guest's picture
Guest

Rather than playing the for-profit insurance game, we need a single-payer system similar to Medicare. Removing the for-profit insurance companies from the medical equation reduces medical costs by 1/3 and frees up doctors to practice medicine (without having to consult with clerks).

Guest's picture
Guest

yes because having the government ration health care is so much better.

You had to know it would only be a matter of time before this got political.

Guest's picture
Guest

Of course you meant to say "You had to know it would only be a matter of time before this got sensible.", after all anything beats what we have now

Guest's picture
Guest

I think you meant to say "If your medical bills exceed more than 30% of your income" rather than "If your medical bills exceed your income by 30%"

Also, the comment above mine should be BALEETED!

Guest's picture
Hannah

My insurance has a $5k deductible. I just had minor surgery totaling $4500 and was told by the accounts payable person (who first checked to see if I was eligible for any financial aid) that if I pay in full within 30 days of being billed, if I specifically ask for a "prompt payment" discount I can get 10% off of my bill. She said that they won't tell you this - you just somehow have to know to ask. I doubt all hospitals do this, but if you can pay in full it's worthwhile to find out.

Guest's picture
Ellie

This is wonderful news about the hospitals, but what do you do if your medical bills have gone beyond the hospital and are now in the possession of a collectin agency? No dice, right? Or is there some way to negotiate that as well?

Guest's picture
Jason

Is there anything that can be done about medical bills in collections?

Guest's picture
Guest

Collection agencies have a charity department too. Just ask.

Guest's picture
Guest

so what other aid is there, if the hospital does not offer financial aid to their patients

Julie Rains's picture

Linsey has written an excellent post on consumer rights associated with collection agencies. If you owe money and have exhausted other sources (e.g., insurance), I would suggest that you negotiate a payment schedule with the collection agency or the hospital. Having personally tried to negotiate a discount with my hospital for a service that I did not believe was rendered as suggested by the hospital (nursery care at midnight for my child who was born after midnight and released the next day), I can attest to the difficulties of dealing with hospital administrators; the accounts receivable department (who you should most likely be dealing with now; or with the collection agency) was slightly more reasonable and allowed me to not incur interest charges while we tried to settle the dispute. At this point, however, for you, the hospital may be happy to see your money and may welcome some negotiations; though you may not get a discount, hopefully you can pay over time.

Where I live, there is a foundation that funds the medical aid relief, which is administered through the patient services department. There may be other possibilities for outside aid, but you may consider contacting charitable foundations in your area.

 

Guest's picture
Elaine

Thanks a lot for the information on asking for financial assistance. My husband just suffered a heart attack. Who knows how much this is all going to be. I cannot even imagine. We do have insurance, but pays VERY little. I am really hoping and praying that our hospital offers this, as it sure would be a BIG weight off of our shoulders right now.

Jessica Harp's picture

Once your bill is in collections, the only ways that I'm aware of to get them out of collections is through court (bad, bad option) or by asking the original company to take the accout out of collections.  This last option only works occassionally and depends on the original company and which collection agency purchased your account.  However, even if your account was pulled out of collections,  you might not qualify for medical financial aid.  Remember, most medical financial aid provided by the hospitals is only offered for a certain amount of time after you incurred the bill.   You may be able to use other community resources, as Julie suggested. 

Guest's picture
~guest~

I was a domestic violence/battery victim in 2006. I did not have a job or any kind of insurance to pay for the injuries I suffered from in May of 2006. My debt from my visit to the hospital's ER is somewhat over $7,100. I had a head injury so I had to have ct scans done and x-rays for other injuries. They didn't take photos of my injuries, they knew it was domestic battery. Well, we were going to go to civil court over the bill to see about making the abuser responsible for the payment of the bill. Before we could get the ball rolling on this, my dad got really sick. He was in and out of the hospital during the holidays, then passed away the April of this year. He hadn't gotten life insurance yet so we had to pay for the funeral costs. My family is just a small town middle class family. We had to sell a lot of stuff to come up with nearly $10,000 to pay for his funeral costs. Then my mom suffered a stroke just 2 months later. We are struggling now. I guess some of you know how long it takes to get Medicaid and Social Security disability. Well, we've ony had the option to sell 95% of all our things. I'm my mom's only local family that actually cares, so I've had to be her caregiver throughout all of this, making it nearly impossible to work for at least 3 months now. Jobs are hard to find in our town anyway. I am trying to find one now, but how am I going to, we just lost our phone. All my apps and resumes that were out there had my old number on them. Well, again about the debt, even before my dad got really sick, he had debt from before he got his Medicaid and Disability. It has been 8 years for my parents, of bad debt due to not having medical insurance and having to wait for medicaid and disability. During my dad's illness and death and my mom's stroke and recovery I missed the 6-12 month window on my own debt for any financial assistance. So, now I'm basically screwed. I have read where some employers won't hire you if you had bad credit, isn't that a messed up cycle that can't be broke. I want to work to pay my debts off and pay my bills, but can't get a job to do it. Anyway, I don't know what to do. My fiance just got a job, but he's got a history of problems with credit too. I just love this country. Until I can find a job, my fiance is going to have to pay for his work supplies, his own needs, my needs and my mom's. He does make good money for our town, but it's only good for basic needs, not 2 households of bills, food and pets. I know I'm going on and on about all this, I just want to know what I should do. Should I still try to take my abuser to civil court over my ER debt? That really is my only other option. BTW, I'm in Indiana. HELP!

DNK

Guest's picture
Brandy the insurance girl

In Alabama we have a general fund set up by the state to cover the costs of medical treatment to resident crime victims. You might want to call your local reps office to see if you have the same in your state.

As far as insurance companies go, you should never buy a policy where your deductible is over $1000 unless you need yearly extensive care. Here's why : with a high deductible the insurance company is counting on 1. not having to pay much more than that thousand or 5000 in someone's case above which means they pocket your premium and say ha ha thanks. 2. If you have something come up that they have to pay they usually cover such a small percentage you STILL end up with enormous bills and they dust off their hands without a care.

When buying insurance make them show you what they pay for, ask how many visits they pay for, ask what your cost would be and ask until you understand!! They don't want you to know they are scamming you.

You are better off putting what you'd pay for a premium in a high yeild savings if you are healthy. And add more coverage to your car ins to cover injury and bodily damage in case of an accident, or you homeowners ins for falls etc... there are other ways the best thing you can do is educate yourself and if you don't understand something ask until you do!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

Keep in mind that while charity care is a GREAT help, it does not cover fees for surgeons, anesthesiologists, radiologists, lab tests, etc. We're in the midst of this problem now and would love some info on reliable sources of charity care that cover these additional costs, which are still very substantial. One thing I can say is if possible, go to a private Christian hospital. They have their own sources of charity care instead of state-funded care and cover more.

Guest's picture
Joe

I recently had a burst appendix a week after getting married and only about 2 months into a new job. My first decent paying job, and was about 20 days out from having insurance through the company.
I was in and out of two hopsitals for almost 2 weeks till they took out the infection and what not. I now have almost $60,000 in debt from the time in the hospital and the Community Care through an outreach program with the hospital completely denied me any money off of the bill. I couldn't believe it. I am now 3 weeks back at work after being off for over two months. It's gonna take us 4 months+ to catch up with bills and even then are probably gonna have to file Chapter 13.
I have worked since I was 15 and now my first decent paying job actually screwed me.
I guess I was most furious also that my wife and I while I was not working (she makes very little) were only approved for 41 dollars a month in emergency food stamp help.
I guess the solution for a middle class person such as myself would be to get my wife pregnant, have a couple of kids and quit my job.
Maybe then the state would step up....oh but wait I don't want to be like that. I want to work.
I guess you only get breaks if you extremely rich or extremely poor in this world.

Guest's picture
Joe

I should also mention what one of the hospitals did to me. I was leaving there (3 hours from where i live) and having family drive me home so I could meet with my personal doctor 2 days from then. I needed to bring with a copy of my CT scans. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester would not hand them over to me but rather said they needed to be mailed to me. Not to my Doctor, not to the hospital but mailed directly to me. How stupid is that, I was right there, why not hand them over? I'll tell you why. Because a week after them being mailed to me on top of my other bills I got a seperate bill for $46 for Fedex shipping and $6 to burn the scans onto a cd.
Nice huh?

Guest's picture
S. Hicks

I went to a halloween party, got dosed with GHB (date rape drug) i came home and the next morning vomited and breathed it into my lungs. I stoped breathing, im not sure how long i was unconcious like that, but they called the ambulance. They saved me after ton's of drugs and tests, throat tubes, the works. Me and my Husband got let go from the company we were working, and they shut down. We arn't elegible for cobra if the company closes, i just had a baby so i weigh a bit more, and was denied health insurance because of my "pre-existing condition" We havnt got the bills yet, but we think we are looking at a quarter-million dollars! We dont make much money right now, but my husband does have an 80,000 dollar boat in his name that belongs to his father. Also we his dad gives us the money and we pay all of his bills for him, so as far as bank statements go i dont think we qualify for any assistance. We are going to apply anyways just to see. I am so screwd! I dont understand why they make it impossible for you to get any health insurance, they screw you so hard when something happens. I think this is retarted!

Guest's picture
Guest

I recently shattered my ankle at a an establishment and have already attained $25,000 of bills. I am aware that my hospital has charity care, but I was told that I am not covered because it happened at a restaurant with a private owner. I was told my only option was to sue the restaurant, which I have decided against doing because it was in no way their fault. Do you know if there is anything else that I am able to do to be offered at least some charity care?

Thank you for any help.

Guest's picture
Guest

There are options available when dealing with a hospital or your insurance company. A patient advocate may be exactly what you need to fight the battles on your behalf. It is like hiring your own experts in the field to represent you to the medical providers or insurance company. Talk to them first and feel comfortable with your representation!

Guest's picture
Pilar

Hello Jessica what you have written has given me hope, but my situation is a little diffrent. My son after a heart attack has been unable to work or really have a life. We had Blueshield I believe and was in process of changing providers, just on this week laps he had a heart attack this took place aprox. six years ago. The bills have sky rocketed to 75 to 80,000 dollars. There is no way he will ever be able to pay this amount since he does not have the ability to work or rather has no income. He lives with me and helps me with my buisness through anything I can dream up but he is limited. But, to the point what can we do. I don't wish to overstep any line but can you help us please in any way?

Thank-you Pilar de olave

Guest's picture
Guest

Contact the hospital, doctors, etc and see if they will eliminate the debt. Check with your local Medicaid about getting insurance as you never know when you will need it. Try to fina good social worker through a local charity, hospital, or nursing home. You may want to contact you state health & human services. They may be able to help with getting him on disability and may have other suggestions to help. Sorry I cant be of more help but I hope someone out there can.

Guest's picture

We are patient advocates...we can get your medical debt reduced up to 100%. It costs nothing to make the call.
www.hcmediation.com
888-719-9463

Guest's picture
Guest

I have terminal cancer and am receiving palpative care. In the meantime, the bills are all being sent to my wife. I hold the full time job with insurance until such a time I go on disability. The billing department where I see the Oncologist, tells me this is normal. Are they looking for someone to hang the bills on when I am gone?

Guest's picture
Wes

I'm facing almost $120,000 worth of medical debt after suffering second-degree burns that cover most of my back. I'm currently a graduate student, no job, no health insurance, nothing. I've spoken with the business office of the hospital, inquired about assistance, etc. They pointed me to their charity office: I spoke with one of their representatives and the first thing she told me was "We don't give out charity." That was about the extent of our conversation.

Right now it looks like I will be responsible for the entire cost of my bill. I applied for Medicaid and was rejected. No one at the hospital has mentioned anything about a financial aid department, so I'm assuming they don't have one. It looks like my only option is to declare bankruptcy. I'll probably have to drop out of school. Any advice?

Guest's picture
Tracie

For anyone who has MEGA health and life get out of it right now, they will pay nothing for you when you need it even if you have their "best" plan. My boyfriend had endoscopic surgery for inflamed nasal pasages, tonsillectomy, and adenoidectomy. They are now calling "sinusitis" a pre-existing condition and therefore will not pay for the surgery. He also was having knee problems at the same time, they won't pay for the x-rays and physical therapy he had to go for. With the surgery he was off work for 3-4 weeks, they said he would be getting disablilty pay through their insurance. None of which they said was true. 2 weeks after my boyfriend had purchased this plan the insurance agent retired. He is now facing a total of at least $21,000 at 3 different facilities...what can we do?

Guest's picture
Champagne

In January I was charged over $3,000 for an emergency room visit while on vacation in San Francisco. My treatment consisted of one saline IV and one dose of anti-nausea medicine. I was billed $3,000 AFTER insurance. When I called the hospital and told them my annual income was only $12,000, the only thing they did was offer to let me make monthly payments for the next two years. I'm guessing they won't offer you any help if you don't know what to ask for. I'm going to call them first thing in the morning to pursue this further.

Guest's picture
Kayla

I ended up in the hospital with no insurance I did the charity care and they did erase the hospital stuff but not doctors fees they said they don't cover any of that do you have any suggestions for the doctors fees of it? I've been buried under this debt for a while now its killing my credit score

Guest's picture
Guest

So if all this medical debt is erased, who absorbs the rest that isn't paid?

Guest's picture
Guest

This really works. I was a full time college student with disaster medical insurance. I ended up having to have lung surgery and my insurance refused to foot the bill, citing pre-existing condition since I had been treated for this kind of thing before with a different insurance company. The total bill was somewhere between 40-60,000.
Since I was a college student and made probably a max of 6,000 a year working part time, the hospital and clinic dropped their entire bill. Unfortunately, hospitals are sneaky and different departments bill seperately. I am still paying off about 9,000 4 years later. The worst part, the bills were sent to collections and now they are trying to make me pay INTEREST.

Guest's picture
tara

I have accumulated about 22,000.00 in medical debt over the past 5yrs and the collection agency has put a lien on my home, i have been making payments for the last couple of years but they do not even cover the interest i am being charged, my husband was reciently laid off due to the economy (like soo many others!) i cannot even refinance my home becouse it does not appraise high enough to cover even the medical can anyone give me any advice that would be great!!! thanks

Guest's picture
LISA ANN

IF YOU HAD NO IDEA THAT A PROGRAM LIKE THIS EXISTED, WHAT ARE YOUR ALTERNATIVES. IT IS DIFFICULT FOR ME TO APPLY FOR ANY KIND OF CREDIT OR EVEN GET A HOUSE BECAUSE OF MY MEDICAL DEBT, AND CONSOLIDATING COMPANIES WON'T HELP ME, BECAUSE IT IS NOT AN "UNSECURED DEBT" MEANING IT IS NOT FROM CREDIT CARDS. WHA WOULD YOU SUGGEST

Guest's picture
NFParent

My son is participating in Clinical Trial at the Mayo Clinic in MN. The only thing covered by the trial are the meds. All other expenses are out of my son's pocket. We need for the meds to work as without a medical solution, he is facing quadriplegia... or worse. We live in another state (TX) and the cost of the weekly/monthly visits (for the next 2 years, 2 months) to and fro are adding up. Each day trip with transportation to and from the Mayo Clinic is costing approximately $450-$500. Does anyone know where or how to find assistance for the medical travel expenses? I've contacted the airlines - they offer a 5% discount (no help - he gets a better rate making airline reservations via the internet). Just need to be pointed in the right direction. I am willing to do the research. Thanks in advance for any information.

Guest's picture
Glenn

There are other ways to reduce medical debt. Doctors and hospitals are open to negotiate. I reduced my medical bills by $20,000 just by negotiating. I wrote a step-by-step book on how you can do this too.....I guarantee it!

www.reduceyourmedicaldebt.com

Glenn

Guest's picture
Guest

My wife passed away two years ago from a single car accident. It was a hard time and as the bills came rolling in for her accident i didn't have the money to pay. I was a full time college student. To make a long story short. they are now popping up on my credit scores. i want to work something out but none of the places a even moving. What do i do?
b_starkes

Guest's picture
Cindy

For the first time ever in our 32 year marriage, we do not have any medical insurance, due to job lay offs. My husband, 54 years old, has been in the hospital 3 times since August of this year. Our medical bills are mounting, we owe about $30,000 to date. I have made arrangements for monthly payments,we have 5 different medical bills with the largest being the hospital at $23,000. They have agreed to a $25 monthly payment. We are both out of work and get about $1,000 month unemployment, total. The credit and collections dept. has sent me a "Financial Information" sheet to fill out and return to them. Some of the information they need is: Employer info, next of kin, list of our bills and amts., own or rent, checking account info, savings acct. info., banks, own real estate, own vehicle, make, model, year and tag # of vehicles. Martial status, all info on spouse as well. Do I have to furnish this info? Is it to my benefit, their benefit? Can they put a lein against our home? (we still owe on home). We live in Alabama, any insight you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Guest's picture
Dolores

I had $50,000 worth of medical dept from a hospitalization, and after applying to the charity department of the hospital got it erased. BUT I still have $3,500 in radiology bills that I cannot pay and weren't covered by the charity department. (I'm 20 and still in school, I have 2 jobs and still don't have enough to even live on...)

Are there ANY options for me? I can't do a repayment plan, I don't have enough money to make monthly payments...

Guest's picture
lizzy

i've been reading these comments and there is a ton of info i could have used about a year ago. all but one of my medical bills, whic soon will be too, have been sent to collections. i made it perfectly clear to the hospital and clinics i went to that i did not have a job or insurance. they didn't offer me any finacial aid, which i do know they have becuase they offered it to my sister who has an income, and then they harrassed me about paying the bills. they said i either had to pay $75 or more. in november they contacted me and said i could have been paying $30 the whole time. i paid that month and the next month, before i even got a chance to pay, they turned it in to collections. i could have tried to pay the $30 a month if they had told me sooner. but my problem is they didn't offer me finacial aid when i told them i couldn't pay. isn't that some sort of discrimination?

Guest's picture

I am a brain cancer survivor fighting my way out of medical debt. Awesome information.

Guest's picture
Guest

My family has health insurance through my husband's employer - it's the best option available to us. My employer doesn't offer me any health insurance. Our 2-year-old was in the hospital for 4 nights last month with RSV (a very common respiratory virus). AFTER our insurance paid, WE have to pay about $4600! Our insurance covers 75% and we have to pay the rest - no matter how high it gets. I've been desperately looking for a secondary insurance option because I'm pregnant and we're going to get hit hard again in several months with labor & delivery costs - again, 75% covered by our insurance, that's it. Labor & delivery can easily exceed $10,000. There doesn't seem to be a secondary insurance option for us. Even WITH health insurance, your life can be screwed over with medical bills. What do you do?

Guest's picture
Annie

Hi, I am a 34 year old woman who has struggled with several medical problems over a period of about 14 years now. I have a disease in which there is no cure for. I have horrible insurance which I pay high premiums and the deductable is also high. The bills individuallly aren't that high, but owe several places. I've already had to file for Chapter 11 five years ago due to these issues. All of these places want all of this money and I can't afford to send any of them anything at all and I'm tired of them constantly harassing me over this. I didn't ask for these problems! But of course I make just enough to not be considered "low income". I am actually moving to a different state to avoid having to go on disability, as where I live now is too cold and humid for my condition. Any suggestions for someone who simply cannot pay anything?? My doctors office won't even see me to refill my meds until I pay the past due balance, even though that was the one thing I was making monthly payments on. They had originally told me that if I was making monthly payments that there wouldn't be an issue and then went back on their word, so now I've done the same and stop paying them as I now need to order my meds from a different more expensive source! Help!! Any ideas??

Guest's picture
Guest

I am in a real pickle. I cannot work outside of the house because I cannot afford daycare for my children. I make very little money at home, and I am on the verge of being eligible for Medicaid... just awaiting the final say on it. I have had 7 pregnancies in 7 years and I am expecting baby #4. I cannot make any payments right now. I had a USDA backed loan that was foreclosed on as I was advised I could declare bankruptcy on it and it would get us out from underneath of a house that we purchased under false information regarding the condition of the home. Now, I have been informed that the home cannot have bankruptcy declared on it as it is government backed and the debt will be sent to the Department of Treasury.

My husband has a 401K that may be able to cover that debt, and we are trying to figure out how to handle that... if anyone knows please advise...

Furthermore, I have high-risk pregnancies and have to see the doctor regularly. The doctor's office said I was "in-network" because the card had 2 carriers on it. Now, they have been informed that I am not in network which makes my deductible for 2009 and 2010 each $3000 for just me and then only coverage of 60%. This is going to kill us as we were expecting much more affordable increments. They are now hounding me even though they know I have been trying to figure out finances with Medicaid. They offered a 30% discount if the insurance ended up considering it a pre-existing condition like they had been calling it (if I could pay in full and of course I can't), but now they have taken that statement away... altogether.

Do I have any options at all? Do they have any responsibility to me for not having given correct information about the network status? Am I just going to have to look more seriously at bankruptcy? My husband's job took a pay cut of about 70% in the past 2 years and I have lost a large portion of my income as well.

Guest's picture
rama

Big thanks for the very valuable information. I'm also interested to know about debt and debt elimination like unsecured debt elimination. Looking forward to your discussion on that. Keep it coming! :)

Guest's picture
Guest

I need some advice for my siser and her family. They live in Austin Texas. Last year her adult son had a very serious auto accident. He suffered a severe head injury and had surgery to remove a skull "flap" to alleviate the brain swelling from the injury. The hospital absorbed the cost of these surgeries due to my sister's financial situation. Now that he has recovered, he is ready to have the skull flap replaced so that he may begin to drive and work again. However, the hopital refuses to do this replacement surgery and is considering it "elective" surgery not an emeergency and therefore not eligible for cost relief. My sister's financial situation has not changed and she is not able to pay the approximate cost of $30,000.00 for this replacement surgery. Is there any charitable agency that she can contact for help in paying for this surgery? She and her son are becoming very depressed over his inablilty to get this surgery and go on with his life. Any help will be GREATLY appreciated.Thanks!!

Guest's picture
Guest

good moring every one i have a qu if you have unpaid medical bills. from the past and how do you go about paying them off if you dont live in the same state any more. collections will let the banks know that you owe money but they wont give them info on how you can pay them back??????/

Guest's picture

When people encounter medical bills they turn to the internet for help. The problem is information overload. The same confusion just like stated on the invoice in which they have received. They look on the internet for answers and don't get direct info pertaining to the bill/ invoice itself. There are tons of weak advice and free articles out there. There is a reason that info is free! The old saying you get what you pay for is never so true when it comes to handling medical bills. Now There is a report to help with those nasty bills,

For REAL help www.medicalbillmadness.com

V2.0 revised since passage of Health Care Bill,

Guest's picture
Guest betty arbuckle

is it true that if a person has a medical bill and its putting a burden on them that his or her minister can go in and explain this to them and get the bill taken care of for that person. if it is please contact me at bettyarbuckle46@sbcglobal.net. i am a minister and i would like to know . thank you.

Guest's picture
Kaj

If you've already tried some of the hospital organizations and charities that are out there, you might consider asking friends and family for help before you declare bankruptcy or do something else drastic like stopping treatment. Our system is broken, but you might be surprised at how much your community and loved ones can help. Online fundraisers for help with medical bills have been very successful for a lot of people, and are sometimes combined with more traditional fundraisers like pot-lucks or raffles. There are quite a few great online personal fundraising tools out there like http://www.gofundme.com/medical-bill-assistance/.

Guest's picture
Phillip

I need help, like a coach or someone who is willing to help me out. I lost my job while I had pnuemonia last year. This meant that I also lost my Medical insurance. My pnuemonia go worse and I ended up in the hospital where I had to have surgery. I know have with all my bills added together 65K in debt with the largest portion going to the hospital. I feel so overwhelmed I don't know where to start. I am working again but still not making great money and when you throw in Childsupport that I pay it becomes really crappy money. Any help will be appreciated.

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Brandy

How does it work if the medical injury that happened when you don't have any insurance causes the person to not work and not have an income, how do they figure it then as far as the government help, would it them be counted? My husband just fell 2.5 stories off of a roof and this was not an on the job accident, he shattered his pelvis, he had to be life flighted and he had extensive 5 hour surgery. I can't imagine how much it already is and he still has at lease 4 more days in the hospital and they want him to undergo a couple weeks of therapy. We are a family of 4 and I will now be the only one working and he has no benefits at work that will continue to pay him while he is off...Please help, any info is appreciated.

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Kathleen

This info is great! Thanks so much! I am about to have a double mastectomy due to breast cancer and our insurance does not cover everything. I am not working and we are so stressed right now just making the mortgage payments.
I'm going to march over to the hospital today to see what I can do to start the process now before the surgery which is coming up on 1/27.
Thanks so much again!
Kathleen

Guest's picture
Cameron

The Truth about "Charity Care" in American
by a person dying and in these situations.

My story: I need an echocardiogram because I have CHF (congestive heart failure). Even at a public hospital, they have refuse to do the test unless I can magically come up with the money up-front. Then, I can apply for charity care. If I can pony up $3,000-$5,000, I don't need charity care, right? I'm broke, no insurance, nothing. I see a physician's assistant at the health department to manage a cardiac condition. Yeah, he's super nice but that's really totally inadequate treatment (need a cardiologist).

I'm almost one of those 45,000 that died due to no healthcare or inadequate healthcare. (2006 numbers).

More than 25% of Americans uninsured. It's actually 60 million in the USA not 50 million like they always say.

How The Hippocratic Oath is a Joke

The Hippocratic Oath requires a doctor to treat anyone that comes to them. Yeah, they swear this Oath. They just don't do it. The Oath basically says being a doctor is a calling not a business. What does this mean? The Oath is violated daily. In other words, any doc has to help even if they just have an office regardless of the ability to pay. But, I know full well if you go to a doctors office and have no money and/or insurance, they will refuse and they just tossed their Oath in the trash. Another example -- your have really bad, crooked insurance (or it gets canceled the day before) that pays almost nothing. You go to your doc and need help with a flu or cold. He can refuse even though he/she just violated their Oath. The Hippocratic Oath is much, much more comprehensive that EMTALA because a doctor has to treat anyone that comes to them.

Just ask the billing office (insurance collector even in ER will have applications or where to get them) for a "Charity Care" application and be honest about your situation.

The huge problems with Charity Care -
1. For-profit hospitals give very little (if any). Need surgery and aren't there for an emergency? You have nearly a zero chance in hell of being helped. These hospitals are often accused (and do) patient dumping. Dumping is sending them home, the street or a public hospital for treatment. Yes, doctors that took a Hippocratic Oath to help anyone that presents themselves send patients on their with emergency conditions and even during recovery.

2, Non-profit hospitals will do this for ERs and admits (ER admits and/or "Emergency Admittance") and all tests and surgeries in those situations.

3. If it doesn't say ER on the door, clinics, testing facilities, your nice local doc your had before losing money and/or insurance, etc. won't help anyone and flat out refuses 99% of the time. Dr. Julie or John that was your GP for 20 years, as an example, can simply refuse if you go to their office.

Rights for Emergency Room Patients
(The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) of 1986)

Note: If this is violated in any way, you can sue and they can be fined substantially.
ASK FOR THEIR EMTALA RULES WHEN YOU ARE IN THE ER! And, read it!

Federal Law requires all hospitals and emergency clinics (ER sign) that accepts Medicare to examine and treat all emergency situations. They can be fined substantially ($40,000 per incident) if they do not even examine the patient. Example -- if you twisted your ankle and can walk (nothing broken), they can refuse as an example after doing a simple exam under law!

1. No matter what hospital, for or non-profit, they are required to examine you to see if you have an emergency condition, regardless of the ability to pay, until you are stabilized. Stabilized means you can be safely transferred to a public hospital or sent home. If you aren't stabilized they can't send you home/another place. If they do, get a lawyer and call the Federal HHS agency. They just broke the law and you can sue and HHS can fine them. (I think it's HHS).

2. Say you claim heart attack, they better rush you back. Not only do they have to examine you, but this example of an emergency, has to be treated the same exact way (ER procedure) regardless of the ability to pay. A lawsuit added the required extra step of how you are treated in an emergency. Basically, even though the Hippocratic Oath requires treating anyone, the law know does as well. The Hospital must use any and all resources to render assistance in an emergency to a non-paying person just like they would a paying one. Example: You have a cold and they treat a cold as an emergency, they can't put you in the hall closet and treat you. If a paying patient gets an MRI for a cold, they have to do the same for you. No exceptions,

3. If you're pregnant and in labor (if you're a pregnant guy, call the news media because your set for life..giggle), they have to treat and stabilize before any move or discharge. Yeah, they have to deliver a baby. I seriously doubt a hospital would be stupid enough to turn a pregnant woman away since it's a lawsuit and huge fine and tons of bad publicity.

4, If your on hospital grounds anywhere (the grass by the cars) and you have an emergency, they better take you in the ER for exam or the person that finds you better call someone and get you in the ER. Yeah, if the hospitals janitor finds you, he better go get help. A lawsuit won this right.

5. The can't delay treatment trying to figure out if you can't pay!!!!

6. If they can't treat your illness or injuries, they must immediately find a way to get you to another facility!

7. The ER or anywhere in the hospital that treats your EMC (emergency medical condition) is required. If it's better in Neurosciences, they must do it. Whatever they do for paying patients, they have to do for non-paying ones.

8. Many more things below on EMTALA:

Hospital obligations

Hospitals have three obligations under EMTALA:
Individuals requesting emergency care, or those for whom a representative has made a request if the patient is unable, must receive a medical screening examination to determine whether an emergency medical condition (EMC) exists. The participating hospital cannot delay examination and treatment to inquire about methods of payment or insurance coverage, or a patient's citizenship or legal status. The hospital may only start the process of payment inquiry and billing once they have stabilized the patient to a degree that the process will not interfere with or otherwise compromise patient care.

The emergency room (or other better equipped units within the hospital) must treat an individual with an EMC until the condition is resolved or stabilized and the patient is able to provide self-care following discharge, or if unable, can receive needed continual care. Inpatient care provided must be at an equal level for all patients, regardless of ability to pay. Hospitals may not discharge a patient prior to stabilization if the patient's insurance is canceled or otherwise discontinues payment during course of stay.

If the hospital does not have the capability to treat the condition, the hospital must make an "appropriate" transfer of the patient to another hospital with such capability. This includes a long-term care or rehabilitation facilities for patients unable to provide self-care. Hospitals with specialized capabilities must accept such transfers and may not discharge a patient until the condition is resolved and the patient is able to provide self-care or is transferred to another facility.

Amendments

EMTALA Laws:

(If you are a doc, nurse, etc. that thinks I'm lying, go ahead and don't examine someone and get fined and sued.)

Since its original passage, Congress has passed amendments to this act. Additionally, state and local laws in some places have imposed additional requirements on hospitals.
These amendments include:

A patient is defined as "stable," therefore ending a hospital's EMTALA obligations, if:
The patient is conscious, alert, and oriented.

The cause of all symptoms reported by the patient or representative, and all potentially life-threatening, limb-threatening, or organ-threatening symptoms discovered by hospital staff, has been ascertained to the best of the hospital's ability.
Any conditions that are immediately life-threatening, limb-threatening, or organ-threatening have been treated to the best of the hospital's ability to ensure the patient does not need further inpatient care.

The patient is able to care for themselves, with or without special equipment, which if needed, must be provided. The required abilities are:

Breathing
Feeding
Mobility
Dressing
Personal hygiene
Toileting
Medicating
Communication
Another competent person is available and able to meet the patient's needs following discharge.

All patients have EMTALA rights equally, regardless of age, race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, residence, citizenship, or legal status. If patient's status is found to be illegal, hospitals may not discharge a patient prior to completion of care, though law enforcement and hospital security may take necessary action to prevent a patient from escaping or harming others. Treatment may only be delayed as needed to prevent patients from harming themselves or others.

Overloaded hospitals may not discharge a patient unable to pay to make room for a patient who is able to pay or is otherwise viewed by society as a more valued citizen.
If the emergency room is overloaded, patients must be treated in an order based on their determined medical needs, not their ability to pay.

Hospitals may not deny or provide substandard services to a patient who already has outstanding debt to the hospital, and may not withhold the patient's belongings, records, or other required services until the patient pays.

Hospitals and related services cannot receive a judgment against the patient in court filings made more than 36 months after the date the patient was discharged, or the last partial payment the patient made to the hospital, contractor, or agent. After that period, the patient may not be threatened with legal action if payment is not made, and may not be denied future outpatient services from the same company/agency that a patient is able to pay.

If a patient has been awarded monetary damages against the hospital or any related or affiliated services by a court of law, or has settled out of court on damages, the hospital and related/affiliated services may not withhold monies due to lack of payment, or count the money toward the bill in lieu of making payment to the patient. Voluntary consent for such an arrangement is permitted only if initiated by the patient. Hospitals may not threaten or coerce a patient into such a settlement, or mislead the patient into believing such an arrangement is required or recommended.
Patients cannot face criminal prosecution for failure to pay, even if the patient came to the hospital aware of inability to pay. Hospitals and third-party agents may not threaten patients with prosecution as a means of scaring the patient into making payment. Patient can be prosecuted under existing federal, state, or local laws for providing false name, address, or other information to avoid payment, receiving bills, or to hide fugitive status.

A hospital cannot delay treatment while determining whether someone can pay or is insured but that does not mean they are completely forbidden from asking or running a credit check. If the patient doesn't pay the bill, the hospital can sue the patient and the unsatisfied judgment will likely appear on the patient's credit report. A 3rd-party collector for a hospital bill would be covered under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Hospitals are prohibited from discriminating against or providing substandard care to those who appear impoverished or homeless, are not well-dressed or groomed, or exhibit signs of mental illness or intoxication. If the hospital fears a patient may be a threat to others, the hospital may delay care only as necessary to protect others.
Hospitals are required to sufficiently feed patients unable to pay at a level equal to those able to pay, while meeting all physician-ordered dietary restrictions.
Hospitals are not required to provide premium services to the patient not related to medical care (such as television) when failure to provide this service does not compromise patient care.

Hospitals and affiliated clinics are not required to provide continued outpatient care, drugs, or other supplies following discharge. In the event such services are recommended, but a patient is unable to pay, the hospital is required to refer the patient to a clinic or tax-funded or private program that enables the patient to pay for these services, and to which the patient has reasonable access. Hospitals must reasonably assist patients as necessary to obtain these services by providing information the patient requests.

Thanks.

Guest's picture
Guest

My daughter was in the hospital for 20 days, 13 of which were spent on a ventilator, a lung surgery, 4 chest tubes, a few CT scans, countless X-rays, bloodwork, meds and what not we got a hospital bill for $274,040.36 with the warning that the Drs will send a separate bill; we don't have health insurance, she is a full time college student and I make less than 30K, there are a lot of programs that we don't qualify for because we are only legal residents (not citizens). This is recent enough for us to do a good damage control but we need serious help, the financial aid is still processing, but I would love to be prepared with other alternatives. Thanks for the advice

Concerned Mom

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Guest

Although this is true of the hospital bill, which was an overnight stay, they told us they don't cover the doctors bills that then come in the mail. This happened to me last month, and although the financial aid at the hospital said we may not have to pay any of the hospital bill, ($6,700 that was then reduced to $2,350), this week I got a bill for $980 from the emergency room doctor, $360 for the ambulance, and $176 for pathology. We can't afford any of these bills, so I'm still trying to find some other form of help.

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S.D. L

I just had Cancer surgery, "total Hysterectomy", Should have been home after about 3 days. I ended up being inICU for 4 days because they over dosed me on pain medicine. The ICU nurse told me I was given the "wrong pain drugs and Too much. Now I have a 166,000. in Medical bills and I have been trying to get help. We are retired and live off our Social Security. I am 63 years old and am not eligable for Medicare as yet. My ( day hospitol stay was way over the top. My husband found me inrespitory arrest the attending nurse said I was fine an hour ago.I am very upset by these turn of events and don't quit know what to do. Any one know of help available?

Guest's picture
david

I'm a 34yr old man cannot work because of an injury i have no insurance and no income where can i get assistance

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Hospitals in KY Don't Care

I incurred a large medical bill due to an illness. It was routine surgery which I had major and rare complications from. I applied for financial aid, but because I have assets and very little income, and my bills are nearly 90% of my assets they plan to take all they can. I tried every trick in the book, every tip, wrote letters explaining how I am running out of money, so on and so forth. They have no mercy! I don't want to cheat the hospital but am I supposed to spend every dime I have on them and then not have money left for groceries and no hope for that better job that I have been looking for years? Apparently so! Let this be a warning to anyone in Kentucky who has the misfortune of an illness shortly after losing their insurance.