How To Handle A Large Medical Bill

We’ve talked quite a bit this month about advocating for yourself in a medical setting. It’s important to be outspoken at the doctor’s office, not only to ensure that you’re receiving the best care, but also to make certain that you can pay the bill when you’re finished.

The healthcare system in the United States is notoriously opaque, and because of the way things are set up, it’s often unclear how much you’ll have to pay for your care until after you receive it. This is totally bonkers, right? It’s rare that we’ll pay for a pair of shoes before knowing how expensive they’ll be. So why do we do the same for healthcare? 

There are some things you can do to mitigate that “oh shit” moment when receiving the bill. 

Before going in, use your insurer’s website to make sure that the doctor is covered by health insurance. If you’re going to be getting your blood drawn, or if you’re undergoing surgery, try to use the insurer’s website to make sure that those facilities, as well as the anesthesiologist are covered. If it’s unclear, call your insurer to see if they can check. 

While at the appointment or procedure, make a note of anything the office workers tell you about billing. Will they charge your copay in person, or send you a bill? And how much will that cost? 

Do what you can to pay that expected amount on time, whether it’s paying up front with your debit card (or credit card, if you want those points!) or using a check to pay the bill from home. 

There is a possibility that you receive something called a “surprise bill.” Also known as balance billing, this occurs when an out-of-network healthcare provider bills you for the cost of your care that your health insurer didn’t cover. 

To tackle a situation like this, start by calling your insurer and your healthcare provider. Ask questions about whether the doctor was in network and why you were charged more than you expected. Make note of the dates of these calls. 

If either the provider or the insurer won’t budge, you can reach out to your state medical board, which may offer protection against this type of billing. 

If all else fails, ask your medical provider if they can offer you a payment plan for the bill. Many offer plans like these for bills, you just have to ask.