How to Lower or Erase Medical Bills

If you have ever swooned when you received your medical bill, a knowledgeable doctor has tons of advice.

Dr. Virgie Bright-Ellington is an internist in New York. She received her medical degree from University of Michigan Medical School and has been a doctor for more than 20 years. After a stint working at a health insurance company, Dr. Ellington left her practice and became an activist for proper medical billing.

Dr. Ellington has written a book titled. Crush Medical Debt. 

"No matter how much you owe, there’s a better way to get rid of your medical debt beyond bankruptcy.

When Dr. Virgie Bright Ellington became a cancer patient, she faced insurmountable medical bills. That’s when she took her insider industry knowledge and put it to work. In Crush Medical Debt." - Amazon Books

Dr. Ellington states that 90% of medical bills contain mistakes. When you receive your bill, check for errors. Call the billing department and insist on an itemized bill that displays  the CPT (medical billing code) for each item. Hospitals are required by law to do this under the HEPA act. HEPA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accounting.

If the hospital or facility has not submitted the correct code, your insurance may not pay for the procedure. Do not pay your bill automatically. You can google the correct code and challenge the bill according to the rate that Medicare pays. .  If you do not have an insurance provider, the facility must give you a good faith estimate on the cost of the care you received. You can negotiate that fee and arrange for a payment plan that fits your budget. Ask for an interest free payment plan. 

You may have received services from a out of network provider. Under the NO SURPRISES ACT, an out of network provider has to accept payment from an in network provider or negotiate the bill. 

If you have subscribed to a health sharing plan with your church,  you are not fully protected. It is not an insurance plan and it will not pay your medical bills. Opt out of it. 

If you are concerned about your credit score. the rules are in your favor particularly if you are a vet. Providers have to wait one year before they report a veteran's delinquent payment as of July 1st 2022. Medical bills of  $500 or less cannot be reported to creditors, effective in 2023.

However, if you need a covid test and you are not insured. the period of free covid testing expired on April 5, 2022. You can still be tested at community facilities for a small fee.

If you do have medical insurance, do not sign the electronic billing pad when presented. Instead, ask for a hard copy print out. Under the section about bills, write "I agree for treatment which is 2 x Medicare rates."  Debt collectors must show a signed financial agreement with your signature. It is akin to giving the the provider a blank check. For example, if the provider mandates a high rate of payment and you have signed the electronic pad authorizing it, the debt collector can garnish your wages to retrieve that amount. Always read what you are signing and write in the changes on your terms. 

Dr. Ellington will be a guest on Westchester Eye on the Radio on June 27th from 3-4pm. The show broadcasts on WVOX 1460am and is also streamed live at wvox.com. You can call in for questions at 914-636-0110..

Listen to Dr. Ellington here:   https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/137937/10-things-everyone-should-know-about-the-us-medical-debt-crisi




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