New research from the American Cancer Society suggests cancer survivors carry greater financial burdens related to medical bills and debt. Doctors found privately-insured survivors enrolled in high deductible plans without health savings accounts were hardest hit, especially younger patients under 49 years old.
If You Have Problems Paying a Medical Bill
Sometimes during serious illness, people find it hard to pay their medical bills on time.
Don't pay any bill until you have the final Explanation of Benefits (EOB) form from your insurance company. (If you are covered under 2 plans, wait until you have the EOB from both of them.) Call the department that sent the bill if there is a difference between your bill and the Explanation of Benefits. Be persistent about this.
Pay attention to notices that say the bill will soon be turned over to a collection agency. Most people want to avoid this if at all possible. It affects their credit rating, and some agencies can get aggressive in their efforts to collect
If you have health insurance
- Explain the problem to the hospital or clinic's financial counselor or the doctor's office secretary. payment delay or extended payment plan
- Social worker talk about sources of short-term help
- If you have problems with balance billing (large bills for out-of-network coverage), contact your state insurance commission.
Talk to the health insurance claim Is Denied
If you don't have health insurance
- Talk with the doctor, hospital, or treatment facility that sent you the bill. Explain the problem to the financial counselor or the doctor's office secretary.
- Ask the doctor or facility if they can give you the same discounts that they give Medicare (or even major health insurance companies) so that you can pay the bill. 1
- It's also very important to meet with your cancer care team social worker or financial counselor to see what other resources might be able to to help you with your medical care or bills
The Hill Burton program
A few hospitals and other medical facilities get money from the federal government so they can offer free or low-cost services to those who are unable to pay . This is called the Hill-Burton Program.
Each medical facility chooses which services it will provide at no charge or at a reduced cost. Services covered by a government program, such as Medicare and Medicaid, or other health insurance policies, are not eligible for Hill-Burton coverage. But Hill-Burton can cover services not covered by the other government programs.
Eligibility for Hill-Burton Help is based on your family size, income, and where you live. Income is calculated based on your actual income for the past 12 months, or your past 3 months' income times 4, whichever is less. You can apply for Hill-Burton assistance at any time before or after you receive care.
To find a Hill-Burton facility in your area, call 1-800-638-0742 and leave your name and address to get a copy of facilities mailed to you. Maryland residents call 1-800-492-0359. You can also look online at https://www.hrsa.gov/get-health-care/affordable/hill-burton/index.html
Once you find a Hill-Burton facility, the Admissions, Business, or Patient Accounts can count on how to apply for assistance.
If you have problems with other bills too, get help
Perhaps you already have credit card debt or other loans. And you probably have regular monthly expenses. You might want to talk with credit card, mortgage, and utility companies and try to arrange smaller monthly payments. For some other sources of help with expenses, see programs and resources to help with cancer-related expenses.
You can also find a non-profit consumer credit counseling service to help with this. But it's important to know that all credit counselors are the same. Even some of the agencies that advertise themselves as non-profit having hidden fees that can add to your debt.