Last year, Americans borrowed $88 billion to pay for healthcare expenses that their insurance didn’t cover. Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they scared a significant health occurrence would cause them to go bankrupt. Two out of three patients are unable to pay their full hospital bills. Clearly, the American healthcare system is broken, and little is currently being done to fix it. In the meantime, people are suffering because of outrageous medical bills and need a solution. For those who are stuck with massive bills from emergency room visits and can’t afford to pay them off, here are two strategies to get those costs lowered and pay the bill off.


Look into how your bill was coded

When you receive your medical bill, it’ll likely just have the figure you’re expected to pay on it. Track down an itemized version of your bill. This process can be complicated and may require you to speak with multiple departments of the hospital. With the itemized version, you can look for any mistakes, such as duplicate charges, charges for services never given or things billed for an exceptionally high price. Use Fair Health to help determine the average price doctors in your areas are paid for the service you received.


Also, look at the coding of your facility fee. The facility fee is the charge paid for walking into the emergency room and is typically higher the more complex care you need. The complexity of care is rated on a 1 to 5 scale, and the difference in fees between the levels can be drastic. If you feel your visit was coded unfairly high, you can call the hospital and try to negotiate it down.


Ask for a prompt-pay or cash discount

If everything on your bill is correct, you may still be able to receive a discount either by paying for the bill upfront or paying for it in cash. Many hospitals are willing to give a discount to people who can pay right away, as some money now is better than no money later. The amount of deduction you’ll receive does vary by hospital, typically depending on who answers the phone when you call. Paying the bill right away can earn you anywhere from a 20 to 40 percent cut of the price. Paying in cash also gives you a similar discount, as the medical bill you receive is what the insurance company is billed, but insurance companies never pay in full. Call the hospital and ask what the cash rate is; it can sometimes cut your bill into fifths.


While tracking down bills and talking on the phone with hospital employees can take up a lot of your time, it may be worth it to help eliminate or lower your medical debt.