By: Andrew Yakubovich and Tracey Aaron
It is no secret that the cost of receiving care in a hospital can be astronomical. That dreaded feeling when you open your mailbox to find a bill from the hospital, knowing that what lays inside will be impossible for you to pay, is far too common for Americans. The lack of transparency – not knowing what the bill will be impossible for you to pay – is a significant problem. Most Americans do not even know what some charges are for, and even worse, how seemingly simple medical visits, tests or procedures cost so much! According to a study published by the American Journal of Public Health, medical bills are the leading cause of personal bankruptcies in America, making up 66.5% of the total.
Consider a story where a woman fell and cut her ear and was billed $5,751 for receiving an ice pack in the emergency room, or where an emergency room visit that resulted in a single Band-Aid being placed on a child’s finger led to a bill charging $629. These types of stories are far too common. For more serious hospital visits, bills can often be in the hundreds of thousands!
While insurance does cover many medical bills, the amount a patient ends up being responsible for can quickly wipe out savings, retirement accounts, college funds, and even home equity. For the 11% of Americans (29 million) that are uninsured, and the millions more that are underinsured, a single hospital visit can lead to serious financial trouble. In fact, in an article published by the Wall Street Journal, a study found that hospitals often charge uninsured people the highest prices. This is because big insurance companies who give lots of business to hospitals often negotiate prices down, whereas a single uninsured patient does not have much leverage. For example, at Emphraim McDowell Regional in Ky, an uninsured patient is billed $66,226 for a stent after a heart attack. A patient with an Anthem Inc. health-maintenance organization plan would pay $17,895 and an insurer with a Medicare plan would be charged $12,445 for the same procedure.
If a patient tries to contact a hospital to negotiate outrageous expenses, they are often bounced around from person to person. Although hospitals often have a variety of financial counselors, patient navigators, billing office employees, social workers, clinical program managers etc…, it is often very difficult to reach the right person and they most often do not have the authority to reduce bills. As a result, It can take a long time to negotiate medical bills and often requires legal assistance, an additional expense for those already having financial difficulty.
If you are experiencing financial hardship, Fifth Season Financial may be able to offer financial relief. The Funds for Living program offers a cash advance to qualifying individuals who have an active life insurance policy. All money given is yours to use at your discretion. For more information, call a program coordinator at (866) 459-1271, or visit www.fifthseasonfinancial.com.
 Gross, T. (2019, March 13). Why an er visit can cost so much – even for those with health insurance. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2019/03/13/702975393/why-an-er-visit-can-cost-so-much-even-for-those-with-health-insurance.
 Evans, M., Mathews, A. W., & McGinty, T. (2021, July 6). Hospitals often charge uninsured people the highest prices, new data show. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/hospitals-often-charge-uninsured-people-the-highest-prices-new-data-show-11625584448#:~:text=A%20Journal%20analysis%20of%20various,higher%20prices%20than%20insurance%20payers.&text=%E2%80%94Hospitals%20routinely%20bill%20uninsured%20patients,services%20included%20in%20the%20analysis.
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