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Tips for lowering medical bills

Almost nothing can derail financial stability faster than unexpected medical bills. An unplanned stay in the hospital, even with insurance, can turn into a bill for thousands of dollars. Often, those bills come when you are struggling with finances because of missing work due to injury or illness. One piece of good news is that you can often reduce medical debt with questions and negotiations.

First, always review your medical bills carefully. Medical billing and coding is an intensive process, and hospitals and other providers often make little mistakes that can add up to big costs. If you think a bill seems too high for the services you received, ask for a detailed statement and look for duplicate services or services you didn't receive on the bill. The provider will have to adjust the bill.

Next, don't be afraid to ask for a reduced cost. Providers are especially quick to adjust costs for patients who don't have insurance. Many providers have specific policies that automatically make adjustments to cash-pay bills. Even if you have insurance, if you insurance won't cover all of the bill, the provider might be able to work with you, particularly if you can prove financial duress.

Finally, know that most providers don't expect immediate payment. This is especially true for hospitals, who are used to dealing with large bills and understand that patients will have to make payments over time.

If you can't negotiate medical bills or make payments over time to create a tenable solution, seek legal help. Legal options, including bankruptcy, don't discharge medical debt, but they can make it easier to deal with all your debt and create a more stable future.

Source: Forbes, "5 Surprising Things You Can Negotiate From Interest Rates To Medical Bills," Cathie Ericson, accessed Jan. 15, 2016

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