Epilepsy Talk

Hospital Bill Relief for the Uninsured | January 3, 2010

One of the best-kept secrets in the healthcare industry is that there are financial and charitable aid programs available to lighten the staggering financial and emotional burden caused by medical expenses.  Believe it or not, that financial aid department can become your best friend.  They have the power to make your bills more manageable…consolidate them…discount them…and work out a payment plan at reduced cost.  But first, you have to ask…

Lowering your hospital bill

Ask for an itemized medical bill. Often mistakes are made which can erase thousands of dollars from your bill.  (Many hospitals don’t audit their bills before they send them or unless a patient inquires.)  So, before you begin to talk, make sure you know the exact (and correct) amount of what you owe.

Then, see if there’s a financial counselor at the hospital. Once you know the actual figures — daunting as they are – you can ask about negotiating the charges.  Often you can lower the total bill amount – without interest — by setting up a regular payment plan.

Another option is to ask for a discount for paying the bill off in full. Keep in mind, you need to pay it off by a certain time, to be eligible for this arrangement at most institutions.

Remember, the financial counselor or cashier at the hospital is a living, breathing, human being.  And although there’s only a certain amount they can do, they really want to help you!  They’ll be much more amenable to helping you if you show good faith and if you are really sincere about paying your bill.  (No one, not even them, wants a collection agency sniffing around their door!)

But it’s essential that, if you set up a payment plan, you MUST honor it! If you’re going to be late, or have to send only a partial payment, call and explain.  In fact, start dealing with one particular person and develop a relationship with him or her.  They could become a valuable friend and contact who can help you in the future.

Eliminating your hospital bill

This can take a considerable amount of jumping through hoops, but the time spent is well worth it.

The catch with receiving help from a hospital’s financial aid department is that you have to exhaust all other available resources. First, you must apply for and use any other public medical benefits. If you still have medical bills, then the hospital’s financial aid department will consider your application.

To qualify for 100% elimination of your medical bills, most hospitals require that your annual income does not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level.  You will usually be required to submit proof of income for the 12 months preceding your medical care. (This is how they calculate your “annual” income)

You’ll also be required to list your assets. The financial aid department will want to know whether you have money in savings, checking, a certificate of deposit (CD), Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), trust funds, or equity in real estate that is not your primary residence. Most hospitals will require a statement from your financial institution detailing your assets.

If you don’t have a job or assets, you will need to sign an affidavit indicating this.

Most states have a Charities Fund to pay unexpected medical expenses. It’s for those who slip through the cracks.  They have too much money for Medicaid, but can’t pay their bills without insurance. Tell the hospital business office to submit your bill to the State Charities Fund. If they say they’ve never heard of it, or no such fund exists, call your State Representative and make him earn his salary. He can find out for you.

If your income is low, there’s also a federal “magic wand” that can erase some, if not all, of your medical bills.

It’s called the “Hill-Burton” plan. (The hospital will know of this.) Years ago, two men with the last names of Hill and Burton created a bill which assists people with medical expenses, unable to pay them. It’s only for people of limited financial means.

However, if you Google “Hill-Burton Act” or go to http://www.hrsa.gov/gethealthcare/affordable/hillburton/ you’ll find a gold mine of information about who qualifies, which facilities are obligated to provide free or reduced-cost health care and how to apply.  The Hill-Burton Hotline is 1-800-638-0742 or 1-800-492-0359 in Maryland.

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References:

http://www.stretcher.com

http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-erase-your-medical-debt

http://www.ehow.com/how_5214198_pay-medical-bills-insurance.html

References:

http://www.stretcher.com

http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-erase-your-medical-debt

http://www.ehow.com/how_5214198_pay-medical-bills-insurance.html


30 Comments »

  1. Hi Phylis, thank you for this important information. So many people do not have health insurance.

    I do not know about other states, even my son who is eliglible for public assistance was cut off. The reason being, He was getting SSI and my husband has health insurance for all 3 of us.

    They also count the yearly amount for all 3 of us. My husband and I are on Medicare. We do not qualify either. CA has passed strict laws this past year on the amount of public assistance it is getting. My son did not get his yearly allowance added.

    That puts the squeeze on the hospital that is not getting rich in our small town, now that public assistance has pretty much been wiped out. Our hospital was depending on that money.

    We do not know yet how the Federal Health Reform will affect us yet. Will our insurance that we pay every month go up? If it does, it comes out of my husband’s retirement.

    Thank you for the Hill-Burton Hotline.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 3, 2010 @ 3:19 PM

  2. I know that most hospitals who offer charitable aid receive federal funds for that very purpose. Without those funds, they are hanging on by their teeth. That’s why hospitals are joining together to become incorporated consortiums. To support and protect themselves and each other financially. Otherwise, many of them WOULD go under.

    It’s a sad state of affairs…

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 4, 2010 @ 2:42 AM

  3. Where I live, there is only one hospital. It is sad that they have no hospital to join with.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 5, 2010 @ 7:46 AM

  4. How far away are the next good hospitals? Because if you found a good epilotologist or neurologist, you would only have to visit a few times a year and could probably work out a payment plan with the cashier in advance.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 5, 2010 @ 9:46 PM

  5. Hi Phylis, my neurologist is in the city with a great hospital. We have good insurance. I think you misunderstood me.

    I was feeling for all those here who do not have insurance. There are a lot of them. It is a sad time for them.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 6, 2010 @ 11:30 AM

  6. Listen I’m really at my witts end. My daughter and I are trying to find assistance with her med’s and or a doctor we are so poor poverty is and exspensive word. She continues to have seizures and there is no understanding in sight. we have tried every thing and it seems we get the run around. This scares us silly. We live in dade county florida. if someone can direct us to help pleaselet us know asap Thanks Earnest c. Williams

    Like

    Comment by Earnest williams — January 8, 2010 @ 5:54 AM

  7. Here are the Hill-Burton facilities in Florida:

    APOPKA FAMILY HLTH CTR
    225 E SEVENTH STREET
    APOPKA 32703
    407-886-6201 Outpatient Facility

    CENTRAL FLORIDA H C INC
    950 COUNTY ROAD 17A WEST
    AVON PARK 33825 Outpatient Facility

    C L BRUMBACK HLTH CTR
    38754 STATE ROAD 80
    BELLE GLADE 33430
    561-996-1600 Outpatient Facility

    BROWARD GEN MED CTR
    1600 SOUTH ANDREWS AVENUE
    FT LAUDERDALE 33316
    954-355-4400 General Hospital

    COMPREHENSIVE CARE CTR
    1101 NW 1ST STREET
    FT LAUDERDALE 33311
    954-463-7313 Outpatient Facility

    RURAL HEALTH CARE, INC
    HIGHWAY 2O PO BOX 596
    INTERLACHEN 32148
    904-684-4914 Outpatient Facility

    FL JACKSON MEMORIAL HOSP
    1611 N.W. 12TH AVENUE
    MIAMI 33136
    305-325-7429 General Hospital

    COMM HLTH CTR PINELLAS
    1310 22ND AVENUE SOUTH
    ST. PETERSBURG 33705
    727-821-6701 Outpatient Facility

    TAMPA COMM HLTH CTR
    2402 E MLK JR. BLVD
    TAMPA 33610
    813-866-0950 Outpatient Facility

    In addition, here are resources for FREE Prescription Drug Assistance:

    Free Medicine Program

    http://www.freemedicineprogram.com/
    Established by volunteers, the Free Medicine Program helps patients substantially reduce or completely eliminate their prescription drug costs.

    Pfizer for Living Share Card

    http://www.pfizerhelpfulanswers.com/ProgramList.aspx
    Pfizer for Living Share Card: Card for low-income Medicare seniors (individual income less than $18,000; couple less than $24,000). Covers Dilantin, the most commonly prescribed seizure medicine for seniors, as well as Neurontin, Celontin, and Zarontin.

    The Partnership for Prescription Assistance

    http://www.pparx.org
    The Partnership for Prescription Assistance brings together America’s pharmaceutical companies, doctors, other health care providers, patient advocacy organizations and community groups to help qualifying patients who lack prescription coverage get the medicines they need through the public or private program that’s right for them. To access the Partnership for Prescription Assistance by phone, you can call toll-free, 1-888-4PPA-NOW (1-888-477-2669).

    Rxhope.com

    http://www.rxhope.com/
    Rxhope.com: A patient assistance company partially funded by the pharmaceutical manufacturers. It promises to speed requests for no-cost medications. The website includes information on which medicines are covered by assistance programs.

    Needy Meds

    http://www.needymeds.org/
    Needy Meds provides comprehensive patient assistance programs for brand name drugs, generic drugs, medication coupons and help with applications. In addition, they offer disease-based assistance, free/low cost clinics, discount drug cards, state-sponsored programs, Medicare and Medicaid information, and SHIP sites.

    http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/drugassist_links

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 8, 2010 @ 7:05 AM

  8. Hi Earnest, I understand you. There was a time when we did not have insurance. We were in the same boat as you. I live in California.

    Where are the Hill-Burton places in California?
    Ruth

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 8, 2010 @ 2:00 PM

  9. Hill-Burton places in California are:

    CL DE SALUD DEL PUEBLO
    1166 K STREET, BOX 1279
    BRAWLEY 92227
    760-344-6471 Outpatient Facility

    FAIRVIEW DEVELPMNTL CTR
    2501 HARBOR BLVD
    COSTA MESA 92626
    714-957-5101 Mental Hospital

    SOUTHERN INYO HOSP
    501 EAST LOCUST, BOX 890
    LONE PINE 93545
    760-876-5501 General Hospital

    ALTA MED HLTH SERV CORP
    500 CITADEL DRIVE, SUITE 490
    LOS ANGELES 90040
    Outpatient Facility

    ALTAMED SEN HLTH & A CT
    5425 EAST POMONA BLVD.
    LOS ANGELES 90022
    213-728-0411 Outpatient Facility

    L A GAY & LESB H C CTR
    1625 NORTH SCHRADER BLVD
    LOS ANGELES 90028
    323-464-1319 Outpatient Facility

    LAC UNIV SO CA MED CTR
    1300 NORTH MISSION RD, RM 1112
    LOS ANGELES 90033 Outpatient Facility

    NAPA STATE HOSP
    2100 NAPA-VALLEJO HGWY
    NAPA 94558
    707-253-5454 Mental Hospital

    LA CLINICA DE LA RAZA
    1515 FRUITVALE AVENUE
    OAKLAND 94601
    Outpatient Facility

    CA LOGAN HEIGHTS FAMILY HC
    1809 NATIONAL AVENUE
    SAN DIEGO 92113
    619-515-2300
    Outpatient Facility

    SAN FERNANDO CLINIC
    1600 SAN FERNANDO ROAD
    SAN FERNANDO 91340
    818-365-8086 Outpatient Facility

    LAGUNA HONDA HOSPITAL
    375 LAGUNA HONDA BLVD
    SAN FRANCISCO 94116
    415-664-1580
    CHRONIC DIS HOSP

    MISSION NEIGHBORHOOD HC
    240 SHOTWELL STREET
    SAN FRANCISCO 94110 Outpatient Facility

    BARBARA ARONS PAVILION
    751 BASCOM AVENUE
    SAN JOSE 95128
    408-299-6053 Mental Hospital

    HARBOR UCLA MED CTR
    1000 W CARSON STREET, BOX 479
    TORRANCE 90509
    310-222-2101 General Hospital

    PARTNERS ADULT DAY HEALTH
    7362 SANTA MONICA BOULEVARD
    WEST HOLLYWOOD 90046
    213-883-0330

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 8, 2010 @ 9:01 PM

  10. Hi Phylis, thank you very much. Ruth

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 9, 2010 @ 12:22 AM

  11. A millions thanks to you for this info. Its really sad that one could’nt get such local sources. And once again thanks a million. Earnest C. Williams

    Like

    Comment by Earnest C. Williams — January 9, 2010 @ 2:28 AM

  12. I’m happy to help. You just have to look under some mossy rocks to find this stuff! 🙂

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 9, 2010 @ 5:40 AM

  13. Hi Phylis,
    Thank you for all of your hard research for everyone to learn from.
    Ruth

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 9, 2010 @ 4:36 PM

  14. I’m just happy of I can be of some help! 🙂

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 9, 2010 @ 9:19 PM

  15. Hi,
    I am from the UK and am moving to LA for 12months with a working visa, I have JME, a mild form of epilepsy. I am 22 and have only ever had 1 fit but need to register with a neurolgist over in LA and get my Keppra tablets on prescription. Do you have any advice on how to start this and know any rough estimates on prescription costs etc?

    Thank you so much 🙂

    Like

    Comment by Gemma Morgan — January 30, 2010 @ 12:52 AM

    • Here is a compilation by forum members of http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/efforums/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=3&threadid=58925 who have had positive experiences with docs over the years. This list is based on personal recommendations and, of course, is purely subjective. But I thought it might be a helpful resource if you’re looking for a good neurologist or epileptologist in California…

      Dr. Kristin D. Ashley, Auburn, CA
      Dr. Everett Austin, Kaiser in Redwood City. Also UCSF Epilepsy Center, CA
      Dr. Robert Burgerman, Sacramento Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, CA
      Dr. Robert S. Fisher, Stanford Epilepsy Center, CA
      Dr. Blondell Gage, Kaiser, Stockton, CA
      Dr. Christianne Heck, USC, CA
      Dr. Rosalind Hsia, Sacramento Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, CA
      Dr. Vincente Iragui, UCSD, CA
      Dr. Kenneth Laxer, California Pacific Medical Center, CA
      Dr. William Marks, UCSF, CA
      Dr. Martha Morrell, Chief Medical Officer of NeuroPace, Mountain View, CA
      Dr. Edwin Tasch, Kaiser, Santa Clara (Permanente Medical Group), CA
      Dr. Jill Trice, Choc Epilepsy Center, Orange, CA
      Dr. Calvin Wheeler, Kaiser, Fremont, CA

      I’m not sure how these relate to where you’ll be living, but it’s a start. And unfortunately, I don’t know the price of Keppra because I’m not on that particular med.

      Good luck Gemma and don’t hesitate to wriite if you have any more questions.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 30, 2010 @ 1:34 AM

  16. Hi Gemma, I am on Keppra. I called up my pharmacy and they told me that they need to know the stength and how many times you take a day.

    They did give me a rough estimate on the Keppra, 500mg for 30 days. This is just one pill a day. It is $88.59. If you could let me know the strenght and how many times you take it a day, I could give you an better price. This is without insurance.
    Ruth

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 30, 2010 @ 4:20 AM

  17. Hi Phylis, in the comments 4 and 5, we talk about my hospital in my town. Like I said it is small.

    You said, “How close are you to the nearest large hospital.”

    I answered wrong. I can get a good neurologist from the closest city. The hospital, I cannot go to. We can only go to the hospital in the town or city that we live in, in CA.

    I would like to add, if my husband did not pay for our health insurance when he retired, we would not have health insurance, except for Medicare.
    Ruth

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 30, 2010 @ 5:01 AM

  18. i was inquiring how to go about geting help with getting my medical bill paid i had insurance but my hospital was over 3,800.00 but my insurance only paid $275.00

    Like

    Comment by leona wilson — April 10, 2010 @ 3:43 AM

  19. I noticed that you put in Devolpmental Hospitals. I know about them because my husband worked at one in California for 10 years.

    They are permanent residences for the Devolpmentally disabled. They are not easy to get into. First you have to go through a Regional Center and they decide if you qualify or not. They are for people who cannot live on their own.

    It is a permanent place of residence for life.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — April 10, 2010 @ 4:15 PM

  20. Hi Phylis, I just noticed that you put down Developmental Hospitals in California. It is true that they are free. My husband worked for one for 10 years.

    A person has to meet special requirements to get into one. First, a person has to be really devolpmentally delayed. You have to go through a Regional Center for the Disabled to see if you qualify. You have doctors and psychiatric personnel 24 hours a day. They are psychiatric and medical facilities.

    Then, it is your permanent residence.

    Like

    Comment by Ruth Brown — April 10, 2010 @ 5:31 PM

  21. THANKS for the info, Ruth!

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 10, 2010 @ 9:22 PM

  22. Hi i need help with a problem i encountered couple weeks ago. I live in LA and i was visiting Las Vegas where i had a seizure for the first time. And i just received my medical bill, and i wanted to see where i can get help to pay this massive bill off that i cant afford. If you know of any other charities or aids besides the hill burton act please let me know thank you.

    Like

    Comment by shah — January 20, 2011 @ 3:56 AM

  23. The Patient Advocate Foundation – solves insurance and healthcare access problems, they assist patients with medical debt crisis… insurance access problems…and job retention for those with chronic, debilitating and life-threatening illnesses.

    http://www.patientadvocate.org/

    The HealthWell Foundation is committed to addressing the needs of individuals with insurance who cannot afford their copayments, coinsurance, and premiums for important medical treatments. Their mission is to ensure that no patient goes without health care because they can’t afford it.

    http://www.healthwellfoundation.org/

    From NPR by Julie Appleby

    “Too many nonprofit hospitals fail to adequately publicize their charity-care programs, two advocacy groups say in a survey report released today.

    While the vast majority of the 99 hospitals surveyed by the Access Project and Community Catalyst mentioned the availability of free or discounted care on their websites, or when contacted by phone, less than half provided application forms and only about one-quarter included information on requirements to qualify for such care…” For more information, click on:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126532508&ft=1&f=1001

    I hope this helps, Shah…

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 20, 2011 @ 6:52 AM

  24. I’ve already done all that was mentioned.
    Well. what I did was just sent the amount that I could afford every month.

    Mike

    Like

    Comment by Mike — March 15, 2011 @ 8:11 PM

  25. I used a medical bill negotiation company to lower my hospital bill. The bill originally was 2000 and the company http://www.klfinancialservices.com was able to lower the bill to 900, I was satisfied as all the hospital did when I inquired was gave me forms for financial assistance, which I knew I would not qualify for.

    Like

    Comment by Sara Vonree — February 18, 2012 @ 8:55 PM

  26. Good for you Sara!

    That’s fascinating (and amazing) and helpful to us all!

    Where how did you find the medical bill negotiation company?

    If you don’t mind my asking, how much did cost?

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 18, 2012 @ 10:53 PM

  27. Phylis,

    You are not imposing.

    The company charged a 25 percent fee on the reduction. So I paid a $275 fee all together. They do not have a fee unless they lower your bill for you satisfactorily.

    I searched around google and gave them a chance.

    Like

    Comment by Sara Vonree — February 23, 2012 @ 10:06 PM


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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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