In the U.S., the average cost of the visit to the ER is $2,168, according to the National Institute for Health. That’s almost half of the monthly expense of a typical 4-member household!
Hospital-related expenses are really among the things most people fear the most, more than the injury or illness they had to deal with. The pain is even worse for those who don’t have insurance and don’t have enough monthly income. Because despite the staggering medical fees, all other expenses don’t and won’t stop – mortgage, food, transportation, utilities, etc.
A trip to the emergency room for an unexpected illness or injury can mean financial disaster. In fact, medical bills are the primary reason for most personal bankruptcy filings in the country. Fortunately, there are some things that we can do to deal with it and at least reduce the cost. Here are a few strategies to try when you can’t afford to pay an emergency room bill:
Review your statement.
The first and most important step would be to check if the billing statement is correct. Emergency rooms are busy places and often, doctors and nurses might put items on a bill simply based on their memory. This means your bill could include items that you didn’t use. Request for an itemized bill. It’s hard to check errors without knowing what specific items you are actually paying for. After all, the hospital owes you a statement with clear descriptions of what you have to pay for. Have a doctor review your statement? They are the best people to determine which items have not been used on a patient with such condition.
Negotiate the price down.
It isn’t always a guarantee but who knows until you try? Especially if your bill is already past due, explain to them your current financial situation. Let them know that you have been intending to pay as soon as you can but couldn’t afford the cost. You can often make a deal if you pay in cash. If they agree to lower the fees, it’s likely that they will set another deadline. It’s going to be challenging but it’s the best option for you. If you don’t have enough money yet, consider getting financial assistance. There are personal loans like a cash advance online that cover short-term cash needs until your next payday.
Seek assistance from a social worker or patient advocate.
These people are trained to negotiate on behalf of a patient when it comes to settling down hospital bills. They know what adjustments the hospital can or cannot make. They can also help you reach out to medical organizations and non-profits to seek financial assistance. Be willing to provide some information about your financial situation. This is important if you are claiming hardship. You may need to provide them a copy of your tax return or pay stub.
Ask for an adjustment.
If you don’t have an insurance coverage, you can ask for an adjustment. Some hospitals have special rates for those who don’t have health insurances. If you decide to pay your bill through installments, make it a priority to pay consistently or else, the hospital may just turn over your account to the collections.
Seek government-funded aid.
The government, through the Medicare and Medicaid programs, is able to provide low-income individuals financial help and support for their hospitalization and medical needs. Eligibility to these programs is dependent on several factors, such as your age, family size, income, and disability status. To start with, you have to apply through your local social services division to determine if you are qualified. It can greatly reduce or even eliminate your outstanding emergency room balances.
Apply for charity care.
If you don’t qualify for government-funded medical care, you may apply for charity care. There are many non-profit organizations and charitable institutions that offer financial assistance to people who cannot afford to pay for their hospital bills. It’s not guaranteed that they will cover the entire cost, but it’s a great relief if your financial liability to the hospital will be reduced.
It’s hard but it’s possible!
Every family has to deal with hospitalization at one point or another. Don’t ignore your billing statement. Once you receive it, review it right away. If you can’t pay the emergency room bill, let the management know immediately. Negotiate for lower fees and seek help from a social worker or patient advocate. You will be surprised to know that there are many organizations that are willing to provide financial support, along with the government.
A trip to the emergency room is usually one of the most expensive undertakings that could leave you in heavy debt. But the sooner you act on it, the more chances you have in settling your medical fees.