Got a huge medical bill you’re struggling to pay? Have you tried getting your hospital to waive your bill? No? You’re not alone. Most patients don’t know that hospitals can let medical bills go by providing charity care.
We’ve spoken to a lot of people with unpaid ambulance medical bills. When we asked them if they’ve completed the hospital’s financial hardship or charity application, the typical response is “I didn’t know I could” or "I didn't know it existed".
Well, it may sound too good to be true, but it’s possible. And, in this post, you’ll learn all you need to know to get financial assistance for your medical debt.
What Is The Financial Hardship or Charity Care Application?
Non-profit hospitals must offer low-income patients financial assistance or charity care based on income. Hence, if you earn a certain percentage of the federal poverty guideline, you can apply for financial hardship or charity care. Hospitals may also offer financial discounts for uninsured or underinsured patients. Every hospital offering charity care is legally required to publicly post the information and provide patients with the information but not all do so.
Steps To Get Financial Assistance: Hardship or Charity Care
Here are the steps to apply for financial assistance or charity care from your hospital, which could result in you having a substantially lower or zero medical bill balance.
Step #1 – Check if the hospital has a charity care policy
Not all hospitals have a charity care policy, however, nonprofit hospitals must offer charity care to maintain their nonprofit status. It is then up to each hospital to determine the qualification policies. And, some hospitals with the policy don’t share the information readily. Generally, this information can be located on their website within the "Patient and Visitor" menu option. If you do not have online access, call the hospital and ask for a patient financial counselor or patient financial services department.
Step #2 – Find out if you qualify and what you need to apply
Medical bills financial assistance is for people who are uninsured, underinsured or earn below a particular income. The amount of assistance varies across facilities from percentage discounts to total waivers, depending on the patient’s situation. So, find out what level of assistance you’re eligible for and what you need to apply. Most hospitals will require documents to prove your inability to pay your bills, such as income tax returns, bank statements, payroll stubs, and more.
Step #3 – Ensure your application gets to the hospital
Depending on the hospital, you can apply for financial assistance online or by snail mail. However, you may find your hospital does not have an online application or user friendly process and you never know with traditional mail post. Therefore, the best way to ensure your application is received is to hand-deliver it to the hospital's point of contact.
What If You Don’t Qualify For Charity Care?
If you find that you’re not eligible for charity care based on income or insurance status, but you’re struggling to pay your medical bill, you can still apply. To improve your chances, attach a detailed financial hardship letter to your application stating why you need financial assistance for your medical debts. Since the applications aren’t reviewed by a computer algorithm but by people, your application may be approved.
What If Your Medical Bill Is Already in Collections?
If a collections agency has already started contacting you to pay your medical bill, you can still apply and get charity care if you are within 240 days (or eight months) since the first billing statement. Inform the collections agency of your charity care application to pause the collection process. They may ask for documented proof. And, if your bill is more than eight months, you can still give charity care a try; after all, the application wouldn’t cost you a thing. Some hospitals grant charity care for bills that have been left unpaid for years. Again, it depends on the hospital.
Despite more than half of U.S. hospitals being non-profit, patients who qualify don’t apply for financial assistance or even ask about it because they don’t know it exists or how it works.
MBCR understands the challenges in receiving a medical bill and successfully resolving a health insurance claim issue. Learn more at www.medicalbillandclaimresolution.com.