Make sure you read and understand your doctor’s financial policy.
Do not simply sign forms without reading them. The policy likely outlines the office policy on missed appointments. It will let you know what will happen if you fail to pay your out of pocket costs. If you fail to pay your doctor, you could become responsible for any costs of collection.
Your doctor is not trying to deceive you – just the opposite. They are trying to communicate their policies to you. It is on you to make sure you read and understand them. When you sign the policy you are entering into a contract, so be aware, and ask questions.
If your cannot pay your entire bill, contact your physician and speak to them. Work out a payment plan.
Medical bills do not go away because you ignore them. Pick up the phone or send a letter to your physician and ask for a payment plan, a discount, or if you are totally unable to pay, ask for the debt to be forgiven. I am confident you will be happily surprised at the willingness of your doctor to work with you. But, you will not know that unless you try.
Do not blame your doctor for the limitations of your insurance policy.
Your doctor or dentist did not write the your insurance policy, or impose a deductible on you. In many cases, the insurance company limits how much they doctors be paid, which is actually limits the cost to you.
Also, do not expect your doctor to be an insurance expert. Look at it this way – would you call your insurance company for medical advice?
Are you really “covered” or “all set”?
When you hear that a procedure is “covered”, it does not necessarily mean that your insurance is going to pay 100% of the claim. There are often out of pocket costs, like deductibles, coinsurance, co-pays, or annual limits. If a claim is not covered, it means your insurance will make no payment or adjustment, and you will be responsible for the entire amount. If a claim is covered, some payments or adjustments will be made, but you may still be responsible for a portion. Again, it is your insurance policy that determines these things, not the doctor. Know your policy terms!
When you check out at the doctor’s office, you may be told you are “all set”. Do you know what that means? Does it mean you will not have to pay anything at all? Maybe. However, it more likely mean your doctor’s office has the information they need to send the claim to the insurance company, and that they will bill you if the insurance company advises any out of pocket costs to you. Ask questions!
Everyone makes mistakes, and there are certainly billing errors that are not your fault. However, it is your responsibility to provide information when needed, and to advocate for yourself.
Many debts sent for medical debt collection could have been resolved easily with better communication between the physician and patient. Take charge and avoid problems down the road!