If patients can’t pay bill, hospitals change collection methods
Here in Georgia, we all know how expensive it is to get any kind of medical care that is not a routine preventative visit. Break an arm, need stitches for a cut, or simply visit the doctor because you aren’t feeling well and you could be faced with hundreds to thousands of dollars in bills depending on your insurance coverage.
Of course, not everyone has a few thousand dollars lying around to put toward medical bills that are often confusing and outrageously high. Many people put off paying their bills if only because they don’t understand them. Today, however, some hospitals are taking a harsher approach to collecting bills from patients who have debt.
Those who have changed their processes are not giving patients the option of putting off making payments. Some hospitals even make a patient pay before they receive treatment — or at least set up a payment plan. If the patient can’t afford the bill, he or she might be encouraged to go elsewhere for treatment. When the hospital asks the patient to pay is not the only thing that is changing.
Some hospitals are refusing to wait as long as they used to before sending the bill to a collection agency. Instead of waiting 180 days, some are handing over the bills after only six or eight weeks.
Being faced with overwhelming medical debt is a frustrating and frightening experience. When hospitals charge extreme amounts for things that should cost next to nothing, like latex gloves or a medical gown that will likely be washed and reused, patients have a right to be upset. However, medical debt can be difficult to get rid of, especially when it has been sent to a collection agency. If it becomes too much to handle, it may be worthwhile to speak with a bankruptcy attorney. Through bankruptcy, medical debt can be discharged, allowing a patient the freedom to move on with his or her life.
Source: NPR, “With Medical debt Rising, Some Doctors Push For Payment Upfront,” Jenny Gold, April 25, 2014