ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Sometimes expenses come up that we just don't expect. Medical bills, in particular. But that can be compounded by the surprise cost of this unexpected bill.
According to the government, about half of overdue debt on credit reports is because of unpaid medical bills. In fact, the high cost of medicine is so profound, the Fox 5 I-Team traveled recently to Mexico to show you how thousands of Americans are crossing the border to get state-of-the-art care, in some cases, at a much lower and more manageable price.
But, that's not the right fit for everyone, so we make it to ERs and go under the knife here in the States. Sometimes you can budget for a procedure only to get the bill and find it's much more than expected.
Here are ways a medical bill can be a surprise. Your provider is out of network. And the danger there is that out-of-network costs may not count against your deductible, co-insurance or your co-payments. Now you might still be in-network but the doctor or other attendees may be out of network. And sometimes it's simply an emergency situation and you get to the closest facility or the only doctor available. Both may be out of network.
SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS
1. Out-of-network facility
2. Out-of-network attendee
3. Emergency care
So you can help prevent at least two of those. Know how your healthcare plan covers and manages out-of-network events. Don't be caught off guard. Make sure at the provider's office that the extra person who comes in the room is in fact in-network. If not, ask for someone who is. Ask as many questions beforehand as you can.
And, yes, if it's an emergency, you can plan a little for that, too. Write down the names of the ERs closest to where you live, to where you work, to your children's school. You can control in some instances where you land in an emergency. Now that you know which hospitals are close, call and ask if they employ their own ER docs and nurses or if it's run independently. If it's the latter, find out if they are in your network.
Call for Action, our all-volunteer network who helps our viewers wade through dilemmas like surprising medical bills, offers this great consumer guide through the American Hospital Association: Avoiding Surprises in Your Medical Bills.