10 Ways to Deal with an Expensive Emergency Room Bill

by Gary Foreman

Dealing with Expensive Emergency Room Bill photo

For some, it’s harder to recover from an emergency room bill than from the illness or injury itself. Here are 10 things you can do to make it easier.

For some of us, it’s harder to recover from the emergency room bill than from the actual illness or injury.

According to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, in 2017 an emergency room visit cost an average of $1,016. ConsumerHealthRatings.com estimates that this 2017 average cost is around $1,096 in 2020 once medical inflation is factored in.

Here are 10 things you can do to make it easier to deal with an expensive emergency room visit:

1. Request an itemized statement.

There’s simply not much you can do with a bill that’s not itemized. The hospital owes you a bill that details what services were provided and how much each one cost.

2. Check your statement.

Emergency rooms are busy places. Doctors, nurses, and aides rush to keep up with patients. Often doctors and nurses put items on a bill based on their memory. During a busy shift, it’s easy for a memory to get overloaded. That could mean that your bill includes items that you did not use.

We can help you gain control of your finances and live better...for less.

Subscribe to Financial Independence, our daily email newsletter. It doesn't cost anything. And, it could make a huge difference in the way you live! Subscribers get Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist and What You Can Do About It for FREE!

Your Email:

We can help you gain control of your finances and live better...for less.

Subscribe to Financial Independence, our daily email newsletter. It doesn't cost anything. And, it could make a huge difference in the way you live!

Debt ChecklistSubscribers get Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist and What You Can Do About It for FREE!

Your Email:

3. Have a doctor review your statement.

Because of their training and experience, doctors and nurses can more easily spot errors in your bill. It’s easy for them to notice things that would not have been used on a patient with your condition. They can also more easily identify things that are double billed, once as an individual item and a second time as part of a kit.

4. Ask the hospital to audit your bill.

Hospitals routinely audit some bills to make sure their system is working properly. Ask to have your bill audited. Who would be more likely to find errors than the hospital staff?

5. Consider getting a patient advocate or financial counselor.

A patient advocate is someone who is trained to negotiate on behalf of a patient with a medical organization. Often they work for government or non-profits. One such organization is the Patient Advocate Foundation.

6. Talk with the department manager.

Explain that the bill is a problem for you. Confirm your desire to pay, but inability to handle a big bill. Don’t be confrontational. You want them working with you, not against you. Ask for a reduction. If they can’t reduce the bill, ask about a payment plan.

7. Talk with the billing department.

Your conversation will be similar to the talk you had with the department manager. Ask about discounts and payment plans. Don’t hesitate to ask for reductions that were rejected by the department manager. The department and billing managers have different functions and could be working under different instructions.

8. Be willing to provide some information about your finances, especially if you’re claiming hardship.

You probably won’t need to provide a lot of details. A copy of your pay stub or tax return should be sufficient.

9. Write and ask for an adjustment.

Mention that you don’t have insurance if that’s true. Some hospitals have special rates for those without insurance. Point out that HMOs and PPOs pay much less than the amounts you were billed. Ask that your bill reflect those lower amounts.

10. Pay a little bit regularly.

The hospital doesn’t want to turn your account over to collections. As long as you continue to make small, regular (preferably monthly) payments, they may leave you alone. (See: Can a Hospital Send You to Collections If You Keep Making Payments?)

Reviewed August 2020

About the Author

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. You can read Gary's full bio here. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews.

Let us help you achieve your financial goals.

Subscribe to Financial Independence, our daily email newsletter. It doesn't cost anything. And, it could make a huge difference in the way you live!

Debt ChecklistSubscribers get Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist and What You Can Do About It for FREE!

Your Email:

Follow Us

We can help you gain control of your finances and live better...for less.

Subscribe to Financial Independence, our daily email newsletter. It doesn't cost anything. And, it could make a huge difference in the way you live!

Debt ChecklistSubscribers get Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist and What You Can Do About It for FREE!

Your Email:

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This