Healthcare Business DEMYSTIFIED

de mys ti fy - to make less mysterious, clarify

What if I can't pay my bill?

Everyone has a time or two in their lives when things just don't go their way.  Even the most conscientious person can find themselves unable to pay their medical bill.  If this happens to you, the best advice I can give you is to immediately let the business office at your doctor's office know.  Explain to them what has happened to you and ask for their help.  Most of the people who work in doctor's offices are just like you.  They have unexpected expenses and life events too.  They can be very sympathetic to your situation and will often be able to make suggestions to you based on your specific situation.

Please do not ignore the letters that the business office writes to you or the calls that they make to you.  Ignoring the situation will only make it worse.  They will not go away and the message that you send to them is that you don't care about your obligations.  They will not have any sympathy for your situation if you do not communicate with them.  They will follow their protocol for delinquent accounts which most likely leads to the collection agency.

Inquire about the possibility of setting up a payment plan.  Perhaps you can't pay the whole bill, but you can pay a smaller amount over several months.  Most physician's offices will be happy to set up some type of payment plan with you.  Once you agree to make monthly payments, do so.  Don't ignore or stop making your payments as doing so hurts your reputation with the office staff.  I can't stress enough how important it is that you do what you promise you are going to do.  If the staff finds that you do not do what you say you are going to do in regard to your outstanding balance, they will go back to their collection protocol.

If you cannot afford a payment plan because of extenuating circumstances, say so.  The business office knows what options are available to you.  Perhaps you might qualify for Medicaid or disability.  Perhaps a local organization that assists people rearrange their budget might help you find extra money to meet your obligations. 

It is extremely important to know what potential expenses you may have and to plan for them.  I can not say often enough how important it is to have an emergency fund or a nest egg set aside for any unforeseen expenses, be they medical expenses or something else.  Plan for the worst case scenario and then if something unplanned comes up, you will have the money to cover your obligations.