Each year, many Americans struggle to manage their medical expenses. Routine healthcare procedures can be expensive enough, but there are even more significant costs associated with emergency medical care, chronic illness management, and childbirth. Too many Americans are finding themselves drowning in the medical debt they’ve accrued from essential treatment and medication, with or without health insurance. Three major mistakes can cause patients to rack up more significant medical debt than is necessary, but fortunately, these strategies can help.
Mistake #1: Accepting the Bill As-Is
When a patient receives a bill from their hospital or doctor’s office, they often get a statement with the total dollar amount owed for services rendered. One of the simplest and most effective ways to minimize medical debt is to ask for an itemized bill. Nurses, hospital administrators, and medical billing companies each have input on a patient’s final statement, and an itemized bill can allow patients or their advocates to check for duplicates, mistakes, and fees that should have been covered by insurance. While there may not be any mistakes present, it is still a good idea to check — medical billing mistakes can add up fast, and every penny counts when patients are paying out of pocket.
Mistake #2: Not Exploring Payment Options
There are many different resources that patients and their families can use to limit the amount of money they pay for healthcare. Discussing outstanding balances and payment options with a hospital’s medical billing, member services, or patient advocacy departments can help knock off any unnecessary fees and correct any mistakes on an itemized bill. Some professionals can connect patients with financial assistance resources to reduce their payments. Patients should take care to negotiate before they commit to paying anything; patients and their families should know precisely how much they need to pay and how they will pay it over time.
Mistake #3: Not Doing Research Beforehand
While some emergency medical services are needed at a moment’s notice, shopping around for healthcare plans before any significant illnesses or life events can help Americans save in the long run. For those who are planning to conceive, taking the time to research prenatal care, labor and delivery, and pediatric costs is crucial. For others, exploring the different plans available and choosing the one that makes the most sense financially is the way to go. For patients who have health insurance and are preparing for surgery or major medical procedures, shopping around at different hospitals and medical centers can help limit the amount of medical debt they accrue.
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