A stay in the hospital can be stressful enough, but when you also have to worry about the expense of a hospital stay and how much it will cost, it can start to make you feel hopeless. Illnesses and hospital stays don’t come cheap and the expenses add up quickly. Reading an itemized hospital bill can overwhelm you.
For your time in the hospital, your number one priority should be on your health. But when you get home, the sooner you take action on your finances, the better off you’ll be.
Here’s what you need to do after a stay in the hospital:
1. Start a file for organizing all of your documents.
You can expect to have hospital statements, insurance statements, prescriptions, and care instructions. Keeping all of these in one place and organized will help you deal with any questions that come up. You may need to provide hospital statements to the insurance company and that will be easier to do if you have them at your fingertips.
2. Contact the hospital billing department.
Provide them with your contact information and request copies of all of your hospital bills and statements. You don’t want any surprises later on when you’re trying to get your claims paid. Also, ask about patient advocacy programs. If your insurance company doesn’t cover 100% of your bill and you’re left owing a huge sum, patient advocacy services can help you settle your bill based on your income and financial resources.
3. Contact your insurance company.
Let them know that you had a hospital stay and ask what they will need from you to pay your claim. Chances are, they already know about your hospital stay from the hospital. If the insurance company doesn’t have everything they need to pay the claim, there can be a lot of back and forth between the insurance company and the hospital with you as the middle man. Save yourself the stress by being proactive and finding out what the insurance company will need so you can start compiling the information.
4. Contact your creditors.
If you had an extended hospital stay, you may have missed a payment or two. Late fees may already be accruing and it will shortly affect your credit score when those missed payments are posted. Talk to your creditors and let them know about your hospital stay. (You can keep the details private – your creditors aren’t entitled to know why you were in the hospital.) Tell them when they can expect payment and ask about the possibility of a short-term hardship program to keep your account from becoming delinquent and avoid excessive late fees. You may also want to ask them to process your payment as “on time” due to the extenuating circumstances, if that’s possible. You don’t know until you ask!
5. Sit down with your budget.
When you combine your hospital expenses with any costs accrued due to missed payments, plus any lost wages you may have suffered, your budget is going to take a hit. Especially if you don’t have enough in savings to cover these unexpected expenses. Your budget is going to need an update to figure out how you can still maintain your bills and debt payments, while adding on the new expenses associated with your hospital stay. You may need to make some cuts somewhere else until your back on your feet financially. If you need help making sense of things, consider speaking with a certified budget counselor. Counseling is free and should help you create a recovery plan.
While a hospital stay can cause stress, being proactive about how you handle the expense of it afterwards can help you get back to normal as quickly as possible.