A medical emergency can be scary in more ways than one. Not only are you dealing with a health crisis, you’re also facing unexpected medical bills. A medical emergency can put you in a position to make hard choices about your finances.
Start saving, & 5 other tips to help you save money during a medical emergency
It can seem impossible to feel on top of things during a medical emergency, let alone even try to save money, but there are ways to be prepared and soften the financial blow. Here are five essentials that can help you save money during a medical emergency.
1. Start an Emergency Fund
It’s never too late to start saving.
Emergency funds can help you pay in part, or in full, the costs of medical services. By setting aside money in your monthly budget, over time, you could have the ability to cover thousands in medical bills. Medical providers may also be more willing to negotiate payment plans with you if you are able to pay some of your bills upfront.
Also consider starting a Health Savings Account (HSA), a savings plan often offered by your employer, that’s specifically designated for medical expenses. An HSA is particularly helpful if you have a high deductible on your insurance.
2. Watch for Mistakes on Billing
Medical bills are confusing and are incorrect nearly half of the time. This means it’s incredibly easy to overpay for medical expenses, especially during an emergency. Consider taking each of the following steps before paying a medical bill in full:
Request an Itemized Bill
Whenever you file an insurance claim, your insurer will send you an Explanation of Benefits (EOB). An EOB breaks down what was billed to your insurer, what they covered, and what you should expect to pay out of pocket to the care provider.
But make sure to also request an itemized bill from the medical care provider that lists what services you received. This will be important in understanding what you’re paying for.
Know the Real Cost of Medical Procedures
Many insurance companies allow consumers to search the costs of medical procedures on their websites. Take a moment to research the actual costs of procedures, what the negotiated rates through your insurance company are, and how much your insurance company covers.
Use these resources, Healthcare Bluebook, and New Choice Health, to get an idea of how much local hospitals and doctors likely charge and what discounts insurers may offer.
Review Your Bill Closely
Once you know how much procedures should cost you, closely review your bill for overcharges or for services you may not have received. Go through each line carefully and check for possible mistakes from both the provider and insurer.
Asking questions is one of the key ways to save during a medical emergency and prevent medical debt.
3. Negotiate Your Medical Bills
Different doctors and hospitals approach negotiations of medical bills differently, but there may be wiggle room. Always ask for discounts before and after procedures, and make sure you’re not going through with unnecessary tests or measures.
Keep in mind that negotiating can turn into a long process with rejection. But it could be worth your time to be persistent. If negotiating is not in your wheelhouse or if you feel like you need backup, there are professionals that help with this very need.
4. Get Help from a Medical Billing Professional
If you don’t feel you’re prepared to negotiate your medical bills, there are experts who can help you. You’ll have to pay for their services, but paying a fee to a professional may be able to help you save on your bills.
Medical billing and patient advocates are trained to look for any medical billing errors or opportunities for negotiation. Here are a couple of resources that you can use to seek out someone who could help you:
- Get a referral for a medical disputes lawyer from your state’s bar association
- Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals
- National Association of Healthcare Advocacy
5. Avoid High-Interest Payment Plans and Credit Cards
Even if you are prepared and have an emergency fund, medical bills can still put you out. It can be easy to access funds quickly through high-interest payment plans and credit cards. You may be able to get money upfront, but they often come at high payoff expenses.
Be vigilant about accessing quick money, and ensure you’re making an informed choice if you tap into new credit.
Be Proactive in Managing Your Medical Bills
When it comes to medical expenses (especially during an emergency), do as much research and due diligence as you can. This includes:
- Understanding your insurance policy (know what you’re covered for)
- Researching the costs for any procedure
- Questioning any charge that doesn’t seem right on your bills
- Get answers on any rejected insurance claims (And try to appeal any claims you believe should be covered)
This is the time to ask questions to your healthcare providers, your insurance companies, and to professionals who could help save you money on medical bills.
Navigating the medical and health insurance worlds can be intimidating and frustrating, especially when you’re in the middle of a crisis that’s taking a lot out of you already. Stay informed and ask questions. You will likely see the difference when the bills come in.