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Medical billing changes could aid in working with creditors

When a serious illness or injury occurs, many Florida residents are plunged into serious financial trouble. As the patient and his or her family struggles to come to terms with the diagnosis, treatment plan and immediate medical needs, the bills begin coming in. Making matters worse, many medical bills are incredibly difficult to understand, leaving many with stress to match the pile of bills. Changes in medical billing standards could help patients and their families evaluate the impact that these costs will have on their overall level of consumer debt and make it easier to communicate with creditors.

New guidelines are expected to be implemented by many hospitals across the country. While the changes are not mandatory, many in the health care field believe that the guidelines will be put into place because they were developed by groups that are well-respected throughout the industry. The changes will affect the clarity of medical bills, making it easier for patients to understand the cost of services and what portion of their charges will be covered by insurance. Duplicate bills should also decline, so that a true cost of care can be determined.

Once a consumer has this information in place, it may be possible to contact the health service provider and negotiate for reduced charges. Patients should also compare the charges with their insurance policy to make sure that all covered treatment is properly paid for by their insurance provider. By taking a proactive role, some patients will be able to manage the level of debt that can accompany a serious medical need.

In certain cases, however, the cost of medical care is simply too high to repay, no matter how aggressively a Florida patient manages communications with creditors. Once medical debt has risen to a point at which repayment is not possible, it may be time to consider other alternatives, including filing for personal bankruptcy. Those who find themselves in this scenario should understand that they are not alone; a recent survey found that 41 percent of American adults were experiencing problems with paying down consumer debt related to medical care.

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, "New billing standards to help patients with debt", , June 14, 2014

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