Summary: “A payment plan is a great way to manage overdue medical bills while waiting for your case to resolve. This guide helps you set up a payment plan until I can resolve your case. Contact me if you have any questions.” Mike Burman
A payment plan involves the following steps:
- Organize the overdue bills into manila folders by medical provider.
- Find out from the medical provider who is the "bill collector" in charge of the overdue bill.
- Negotiate an affordable monthly payment with the bill collector.
- Pay the negotiated amount on time each month.
- When the case resolves, negotiate a lower "lump sum" payment, or continue monthly payments.
Now, let's explain the above steps.
To begin a payment plan, first, gather up all your overdue bills. Sort the overdue bills by medical provider, so all the unpaid bills for one provider are together. For example, put all the bills from ABC Hospital in one folder, and all the bills from XYZ Therapy into another folder. I recommend using a simple manila file folder (come by my office and I will give you all the folders you need).
Next, at the top of the folder, write the name of the provider, the contact person in charge of collecting the overdue bill, the contact phone and email of the bill collector, the account number, and the total amount of the bill. You will have to call the provider and ask for this information because it will probably not be on the overdue bill.
Then, sort the folders so the folder with the highest bill is first, and the folder with the lowest bill is last.
Before you introduce yourself to the bill collector, read the bill and ask yourself: is the bill accurate? If you see anything that does not look right, circle it and make a note in the margin. Examine the dates of service. Do you see service dates that do not match the dates you received treatment? Do you see charges for services you did not receive? Do you see charges for prescriptions you did not take? You may have to read the bill several times. Circle anything that concerns you, and write notes in the margins so you can discuss your concerns with the bill collector when you ask that any inaccurate charges be removed from your bill.
Once you are satisfied the bill is accurate, you are ready to negotiate with the bill collector. Start with the highest bill and before you call, come up with an amount you can afford. This is your target number. Write down that number on your folder, and do not go over it. When you contact the bill collector, start with a number that is lower than your target number. If you are tempted to pay by credit card, think twice because credit cards charge high interest rates. A payment plan will usually incur no interest. That's right, if you work out a payment plan with a provider and pay on time, the provider will usually not charge any interest as long as you pay on time. So, you must determine what your budget will allow you to pay. Many of my clients have negotiated payments of $5 to $35 per month and even $50 per month on very large bills. The provider will likely start out with a number that is too high for you. Don't be afraid to talk them down. Go low. You can always go up. Do not go above your target number.
How much will each provider accept? It depends. Every provider is different and there is no set rule for the amount each provider will tolerate. You just have to roll up your sleeves and find out. Be honest with the contact person. You will find some to be sympathetic, and appreciative of the fact you are trying to pay your bills.
Once you have an agreement on a monthly amount, make your payments on time. This is a huge trust builder. As long as you make your payments on time, a payment plan allows you to maintain your credit history and avoid a bad mark on your credit history for a medical bill that was not your fault to start with. Make sure to by check or money order so you have a record of payment.
When I resolve your case, discuss with me how you can offer to pay a low "lump sum" amount in some cases to wipe the overdue bill out entirely.
If you get stuck and need help, contact me.