About two-thirds of Americans say that they are worried about being able to afford surprise medical bills. And there is a good reason for that fearful surprise in your mailbox — you might end up receiving the bill years after the service has been provided, and the chances are high that you might have not even known about it.
Thankfully, there are ways to dispute the bill or cover it without having to deal with a late fee and a drop in your credit score. Keep on reading to find out how to take care of such an unpleasant situation without having to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars at once.
Most medical providers and hospitals can take anywhere from 6 months to 6 years to bill you. And the worst thing is that they’re legally allowed to do that.
The regulations can vary from state to state. For example, if you live in Florida, you might receive a surprise bill in 5 years! Check with your state, to find out how late can medical bills be sent, but know that the limits are normally between 11 months and 6 years.
There are a few reasons for delayed medical billing:
Most health providers do their best to ensure that the patient will get the bill as soon as possible. But if, despite these efforts, you have received the bill "late" that does not mean that you’re automatically relieved from having to pay for the services provided.
Unfortunately, in most cases, if you get a late medical bill even one year later or more you have to pay it. That would have to be done either directly, or through your insurance.
If you feel like you are simply not able to take care of the bill immediately, contact your medical provider. Most of them would agree to offer you a repayment plan. You might also find out that you qualify for financial assistance or that the bill was sent to you by mistake. In any case, staying in touch with the medical provider would be a great idea.
The majority of medical bills have a due date of 30 days starting from the date billed. However, do bear in mind that every provider is different, so you might want to call your hospital to find out the allowable payment timeframe.
No matter how many days or months you might have, the timeframe does not indicate the date when you would have to fully pay off your medical bill. If you can’t afford a lump-sum payment, you have the right to arrange a repayment plan during this time.
When the bill becomes overdue, the medical provider can issue a late fee. If that does not encourage you to pay, you would typically be given a last warning in written form.
After that, the healthcare provider might assign the debt to a collection agency. Once this happens, your credit score may be negatively affected.
In the worst-case scenario, you can get sued for unpaid bills, and if you were to lose, the debt collector would then garnish your wages as payment or levy your bank account.
The exact amount of late fees and interest will fully depend on your healthcare provider. If you manage to arrange a repayment plan or if you qualify for financial assistance, the provider will not charge you a fee.
But, in some cases, you might have up to 1.5% of the total bill added.
If you do receive the not-so-great surprise of a late medical bill 2 years later, an installment loan can help in a pinch. Simple Fast Loans has installment loans ranging from $200 up to $3,000, which should be able to help you cover what the doctor sent you.
According to new regulations, unpaid medical debt will be reported on your credit report only after it has been in collections for one year. Furthermore, the three main consumer bureaus will no longer include medical debt in collections under $500 on the reports.
If you have already paid your debt that was in collections, you won’t see it included in your report.
If you have discovered that your medical collection debt has been included on the consumer credit reports, but you have already paid it off, contact the credit bureaus directly and ask them to remove it.
The No Surprises Act (NSA) is a new act that establishes federal protections against certain unexpected medical bills. It protects mainly patients covered under individual and group health plans, in case they receive most medical services from out-of-network providers (those who do not participate in the insurer's provider network) at in-network medical facilities.
You can take advantage of an independent dispute resolution process for any surprise received medical bill 3 years later following a 30-day period. During this time, health plans should be able to negotiate the payment amount with the service provider.
Once each party has submitted its final offer, the independent dispute resolution entity will determine which one is the most reasonable. The party that loses would have to take care of all the costs associated with the arbitration process.
For readers who checked out information on received late medical bills, here is an additional topic to know a little about:
If you haven't received a medical bill, it's essential to take proactive steps to ensure timely payment and avoid any potential issues.
Maintain regular monitoring of communications from both healthcare providers and insurance companies. Bills may be sent electronically or through traditional mail, and missing notifications could result in delayed payments. Staying vigilant and addressing any billing concerns promptly will help you stay on top of your medical expenses and prevent potential negative consequences, such as late fees or adverse effects on your credit score.