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Astronomical medical bills can be devastating to any budget. Here’s how to dispute and pay for large medical bills in five easy steps.
Step 1: Review your bills.
Typically, you’ll receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your insurance company in addition to the actual bill telling you how much you’re responsible for paying. It’s important to hold onto both of these documents and review them carefully.
The EOB is a document provided by your insurance company explaining your insurance benefits as it pertains to a bill. If a procedure or treatment is not covered, the EOB should include a short explanation about why it’s not covered.
Review your bills to make sure the EOB and the medical bill correspond with each other. If there is a discrepancy between the two documents, it may be a billing error.
Step 2: Review your insurance coverage.
Familiarize yourself with your health insurance policy before disputing any charges. Most health insurance providers offer all members a detailed manual that outlines which treatments and charges are covered and which are not. Here, you can refer back to the EOB to see if the insurance paid for all procedures it claims to cover.
Step 3: Dispute all errors.
If your insurance billed you incorrectly, or did not pay for a procedure or treatment that is allegedly covered under your plan, call a company representative to ask about the charge. Be sure to have your bill in front of you and to record all details of the conversation for future reference.
If the error is with your doctor’s office, ask to speak to a representative of the billing office to explain your position. Here, too, keep a careful record of the conversation.
In both cases, be prepared to make multiple phone calls until you reach a party who can actually effect change. You can also follow up with a written request to challenge a charge.
Step 4: Negotiate the remaining bill.
Consider negotiating with the billing office at your doctor’s practice for a lower bill. Explain that you are having difficulty with your bill and that you’re looking for a way to lower the costs. With luck, you’ll walk away with a discounted bill.
Step 4: Create a payment plan or seek funding.
Once you have your final bill amount, you may choose to create a payment plan to spread the bill over several months or years to make it manageable.
If your doctor’s office insists on immediate payment, consider taking out a personal loan. This will provide you with the funds you need to pay your bill immediately, and with a payback plan that won’t break your budget.
Step 5: Going forward
To avoid a large medical bill in the future, consider switching your insurance plan to one that provides more robust coverage and less expensive copayments and deductibles.
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