You are not fully covered for all medical facilities even when you have premium insurance that results in surprise medical bills at the end of the treatment. Whenever the patient undergoes surgery, outpatient procedure, or even an ER visit, financial surprises seems nearly impossible to avoid. Recently, Trump administration announced a new push for legislation to end surprise medical bills as the White House pushes the healthcare industry to introduce an improved system for greater transparency.
Surprise medical billing is not a new practice. According to a report of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, nearly 43 million Americans were affected by surprise medical bills in 2014 that led them to medical debt. Evidently, this problem has been affecting the American public for a long time, and we are not expecting reasonable legislation in the foreseeable future to end this practice. We have compiled a list of tips which can help you avoid surprise medical bills.
Tips to Protect Yourself from Surprise Medical Bills
- Figure Out What Your Plan Covers
Take your time to read your plan’s benefits thoroughly and make notes. Better understanding of your plan can help you to avoid surprise medical bills and always call your insurer to confirm the coverage of the required medical procedure.
- Double Check Providers Are In-Network
Provider network changes all the time and it is wise to call the insurer before the procedure to confirm that the doctor you are going to see is still in-network. It is also wise to take notes on who you spoke with and what was told. Keep this information handy, as it can help you when you receive a surprise bill.
- Cost Estimates
Most insurers offer cost estimators that help you to get an idea of the costs for any specific procedure. Along with that, a lot of third party applications are also available over the internet that can help you to get the expense estimates for any treatment. After getting the estimated cost, call the healthcare provider and request an estimate in advance and compare the charges with your own researched values and discuss if there is a significant difference. The estimated cost received from your healthcare provider will also help when you get a surprise bill.
- Seek State’s Help
Although there are no federal laws that can protect patients from surprise billing but some states have policies to protect patients from such medical bills. For instance, in some states, patients are protected from the charges of emergency room visits that involve out of network doctors. So, it is wise to contact state’s department to check if there are any legal protections that can help you to avoid surprise bills.
- Bill Review
Billing departments of hospitals handle a massive amount of data regularly and surprisingly billing errors are very common. They may have used wrong insurance information, billed you for services you never received, or it may have wrong dates. Always check the medical bills carefully and identify if there is any discrepancy.
Medical bills often come with instructions on how to file an appeal if you find any irregularity. It is a good option to file a formal complaint with your insurance company if you find that you are being overly charged. Whenever you decide to dispute the medical bill with your insurer, brief your healthcare provider about the situation and request them to not send bill to collections. Although, they are not bound to do so but this request can help you to buy some time so you can resolve the dispute with your insurer.
- Payment Plan
If all the strategies fail and it is clear that the bill is valid and you have to pay for the charges, then it is better to look for some financial aid or payment plan. Most billing departments have payment plans with little to zero interest rate that can help you to pay your medical bills with ease.
Medical procedures are a stressful experience for patients and their families, and the unexpected medical bills can add to the stress. While there is no timeline to when the government will eventually bring in the laws that will eliminate surprise bills completely, but they can certainly be avoided with the simple checks we have listed above.