Healthcare is outrageously expensive in the United States. Even just a couple of visits to the hospital can result in thousands of dollars’ worth of charges. The question is, how do you pay off these bills when you’re financially underwater?
Tips for Handling Medical Expenses
As the medical bills pile up from your injury, so do your stress levels. Your heart rate increases, your stomach tenses up, and you might even start to feel a little light-headed as you think about the financial mountain in front of you.
While there’s no perfect solution, here are several steps you can take:
1. Document Everything
You’re probably feeling overwhelmed, but now is not the time to get sloppy. In fact, being organized is more important now than it’s ever been. In order to stand any chance of getting a full and fair payout, you must document all medical expenses. A failure to do so will limit the size of your claim and could potentially put you on the hook for thousands of dollars in bills that would have otherwise been covered by insurance.
Unfortunately, keeping a record of your bills may not be enough. Insurance companies will often dispute bills even when there’s proper documentation. This is why it’s important to also keep supporting documents.
Depending on the details of your case, this may include any or all of the following: ambulance fees, emergency room bills, x-rays and lab tests, medication prescriptions, doctor’s notes, and even your transportation costs.
2. Use MedPay
If you were injured in a car accident, it’s possible that you have medical payments coverage as part of your policy.
“Medical payments coverage is an add-on to an auto insurance policy that covers expenses related to vehicular accidents,” Investopedia explains. “Also called ‘MedPay,’ it covers you and any passengers in your vehicle, any pedestrians you may injure, and you—if you are riding as a passenger in another vehicle or are injured by a vehicle as a pedestrian, bike rider, or public transportation rider.”
While you’ll have to check your policy to see if you have MedPay and what the amount is, it commonly comes in amounts up to $2,500 and $5,000. This certainly won’t cover a serious injury (and might not even cover the trip to the hospital in the ambulance), but every little bit helps when you’re paying out of pocket and waiting to receive an insurance payout.
3. Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
The best thing you can do in this scenario is meet with a personal injury attorney to figure out if you have a valid claim to receive compensation to cover your medical bills.
A good personal injury lawyer will sit down with you and investigate the details of your case. Whether it’s a car accident, slip and fall, product liability, or medical malpractice, an attorney will ensure your case is properly structured, filed, and pursued.
4. Decline Premature Settlement Offers
Insurance companies don’t want to pay out claims. They’d prefer to hang onto their money. One of the ways they do this is by offering quick settlements that are worth just a fraction of the claim’s true value.
For example, let’s say you were hurt in a car accident and the fair market value of your claim is somewhere around $100,000. The insurance company knows that you don’t know how much your claim is worth, so they quickly offer you $25,000 and bank on the fact that you’ll jump at the offer. (After all, it’s $25,000!) They pay out $25,000, but in reality, they’re saving $75,000. That’s a win for the insurance company.
As a rule of thumb, always decline the first couple of offers an insurance company tosses out. No matter what they say, these figures are likely just 25 to 50 percent of the claim’s actual value. Be patient and let your attorney handle the negotiations.
5. Continue Attending Medical Appointments
Don’t stop attending medical appointments because you’re worried about the cost. Not only will this lower your potential claim value, but the insurance company could use this as evidence that you aren’t actually as hurt as you say you are. Continue to receive treatment and keep meticulous medical records.
Take a Proactive Approach
Sorting through the complexities of a legal claim or lawsuit after a personal injury can feel like a slow, drawn-out process. (And in many ways, it is.) But don’t confuse the slow pace of things as permission to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. It’s important that you adopt a very proactive approach. Medical bills have a way of compounding exponentially and you never want to find yourself in a situation where your 100 percent dependent on getting a specific dollar amount as part of your claim. No matter how “shut and close” your claim might seem, cases like these can get complicated. It’s likely that you’ll get some sort of payout, but plan for other options too.