My whole life I have grown up around motorcycles. I dreamed of owning my own Harley Davidson since I was a kid. In the summer of 2009 I decided to make this dream a reality. Though I started riding in 2009, I purchased my very own 2001 Harley Davidson Sportster in 2010. Life was fantastic, I was riding almost every day until the expected happened (yes I said expected). There is this saying when you ride motorcycles, “It’s not if you crash, it’s when you crash.” In September of 2011 I was involved in a motorcycle accident that sent me to the hospital for three days. I completely shattered my wrist and the doctors had to insert a plate and screws to fix the damage. I was discharged from the hospital on a Sunday and within a couple of weeks the medical bills started flowing in. I did not have medical insurance at the time of my accident, nor did I have motorcycle insurance since it's not required in the state of Washington. You are probably thinking, “How can you be so dumb?” Like many young adults, I was not thinking about the what-ifs when I decided to drive my motorcycle that day without insurance. You might be surprised, but my situation was not that uncommon. According to the United States Census Bureau, approximately 48.6 million people in the United States did not have health insurance in 2011.
The biggest challenge I faced was keeping track of all the bills. I was getting bills from the hospital, from the X-ray companies, and a whole slew of third party billing companies. Here is how medical billing really works and why you see medical bills from everyone under sun, including the hospital.
When you are admitted to the hospital, there are many different services you have to pay for. A lot of the times, the services that are provided to you are being directly billed from another company. For example, you will have a different bill for your ambulance ride because the ambulance company is the one you have to pay, not the hospital. The X-Rays you had completed will be billed through the X-Ray company, not the actual hospital your X-Rays were taken. When you see a physician specialist, they are usually required to submit their bill separate from the hospital's bill. By the time you are done, there are 4-5 different companies you are going to have to pay. What makes it even more challenging is the fact each one of these companies will give you a different account number all pertaining to the same accident or hospital visit. So you have 4-5 companies you have to pay and 4-5 different account numbers you have to keep track of. Then they throw another wrench into the mix. When and if you have to go back for follow up treatments, they give you a whole new account number for those services. Have fun keeping track of all those!
Here is what I suggest… if you are in this situation and are having a hard time keeping track of everything. Create a spreadsheet, or even a piece of paper will do, and write down each company that you owe. Under that company’s name write down each account number that corresponds with it. Next to the account number I want you to write what you owe. This will allow you to keep track of everything and now you can easily see everything in one accessible place. This will avoid missed payments and having them sent to collections (not a good thing).
Here is an example and you can also download this PDF to use.
After you know everything you owe, you might be thinking, “I know everything I must pay, but I can’t pay them.” Hey don’t feel embarrassed, I was right there with you! Don’t be discouraged, you have options. One of the options you have is as simple as making a phone call, and probably one you didn’t think would work. Call the billing companies and explain your situation. Let them know you are having a hard time keeping up with the bills and ask for your options. The one thing I want you to ask is if they are willing to except monthly payments. The conversation will probably go something like this.
You: Can I set up a payment plan for my medical bill?
Billing Company: How much can you pay?
You: I can only afford $5 a month right now.
Billing Company: Ok, let’s set that up.
Does this surprise you? Most companies are happy to get anything from you rather than nothing at all. They are usually willing to accept a low monthly payment. This is a win-win for everyone involved. You get to keep your account current without it going to collections and the billing company gets some money from you.
Another option you have is to check and see if the hospital has a financial assistance program. More and more hospitals are offering financial assistance programs to distraught patients to help them lower their hospital bills. The hospital I went to actually reduced my medical bill by nearly 80% just by having me fill out a financial hardship application. This would be the first thing I would check on. Once and if the medical bill is reduced, then start the payment plan.
Get organized, look into getting some of your medical bills forgiven or reduced, set up monthly payment plans, and then I suggest looking into getting health insurance. All these crazy medical bills are the consequences of not being properly insured and I want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice. If you are like me and are involved in dangerous everyday activities, like riding motorcycles – please look into being probably insured. It might seem stressful now, almost overbearing, but once you get organized and develop a plan you can follow –things won’t seem nearly as bad.
Do you have medical debt? How are you handling it? What options did you discover? The options you discovered might help someone else!