Can You Negotiate Your COVID-19 Hospital Bills? | Smart Change: Personal Finance | –

Since health insurance companies have rolled back waivers for hospital costs related to COVID-19, a COVID-19 hospitalization could result in a startlingly high bill from health care providers, according to a recent study from the University of Michigan and Boston University.

Of people who had private insurance from March 2020 to March 2021 and were billed for a COVID-19 hospitalization, the average out-of-pocket cost was almost $4,000. Among people with Medicare Advantage, the average bill was about $1,600. This included hospital care and physician services.

It can be stressful to face a high medical bill for something that’s out of your control, particularly if a case of COVID-19  prevented you from working for a while or left you with lingering health issues. However, hospital bills can sometimes be adjusted or negotiated down. Here are some strategies you can try.

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Organize your COVID-19 hospital bills

Gather your materials, including all your bills, your insurance card and any explanations of benefits that you’ve received. Review your COVID-19 hospital bills and make sure you recognize all of the charges.

“Do you remember getting that MRI?” says AnnMarie McIlwain, CEO of Patient Advocators in New Jersey. (Patient advocates help clients with medical challenges, from finding the right treatment to handling billing and insurance issues.) “Did you actually talk to that gastroenterologist? There are frequently charges on bills that are false, that shouldn’t be there.”

Also double-check that each claim appears to have been processed correctly by your insurer. Typically, a processed claim will show a plan discount and allowed claim amount, plus any payment from the plan if you’ve met your deductible for the year.

“If you don’t see a payment or adjustment, there’s a chance they didn’t file,” says Jennifer Kastner, owner of Patient Advocacy Solutions in Georgia. Your insurance may also have denied the claim, so follow up with your insurer before you start working for a bill adjustment.

Note: An explanation of benefits, or EOB, is a statement from your health insurance company that tells you how the company is covering the medical care you received. It’s not a bill.

Ask about financial assistance

If you’re dealing with a larger medical bill than you can handle, call the hospital billing office and ask if you qualify for financial assistance or financial relief. This is sometimes called charitable assistance.

“The worst they can say is ‘No,’” says Caitlin Donovan, a spokesperson for the Patient Advocate Foundation, based in …….


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