Finance Guru: Dealing With Medical Bills

Even with health insurance, all it takes is one major illness or injury to be stuck with overwhelming medical bills. When this happens, you might feel like there's nothing you can do but pay the entire amount owed or file for bankruptcy. In most cases, however, there are several measures you can take to whittle down medical debts both big and small.

1. Check any medical bills you receive carefully. You should receive a detailed statement for any services or procedures you receive. Make sure that you have actually received what you're being billed for. Did you receive each medication and service listed? Do the dates of service listed on the bill match up with your records? Are you being billed more than once for the same service or supply? The easiest way to check your bills for accuracy is to keep a record of what treatments your receiving and when you're receiving them.

2. You'll also need to check your insurance policy and make sure that the insurance is paying for what it's supposed to. If they have denied payment for treatment or services that you think should be covered, ask for the matter to be reviewed.

3. Try to settle the debt for less than the amount owed by negotiating with providers. If you know in advance you'll need treatment, negotiate beforehand. Offer to pay a discounted amount upfront, for example. This tact can work with emergency or unplanned treatment after the fact. If you simply can't pay the whole amount, most providers would have something rather than nothing and will work with you.

4. Get help to pay the bills. There are programs available for people who can't pay their medical bills. Ask your provider.