Hospital Forgives Medical Debt For 90 Year Old

A Colorado hospital forgave over $21,000 in medical debt for a local 90 year resident. Despite all the stories we hear bashing health care providers, a story where a hospital shows compassion is a welcome change of pace.

My client, Liz, owed a local hospital for services received in 2008 as a result of an accident. Liz was not eligible for Medicare, and had private insurance. After admittance to the hospital on an emergency basis, she remained there for rehabilitation treatment. Her claims were paid at out of network level, leaving her with significant balances owed. While she made small monthly payments, she never really understood why she owed all that she did and how she got into this mess.

Liz had no family to help her and lives in downtown Denver. When she called me, she pleaded with me to come down to Denver and meet with her to help her, as she was very confused about all of her medical bills. I made the trip from Loveland to Denver and sat down with her at a local McDonald’s restaurant (she told me her kitchen table in her apartment was not big enough to spread out the papers). She entered the restaurant very slowly, using a wheeled walker. As I spoke with her and looked through all of the piles of bills, I was amazed at how bright and sharp and intelligent her blue eyes were, as she seemed to understand most of what I was saying, and was able to intelligently answer my questions. Needless to say, I was impressed with her and I certainly felt compassion for her circumstances. She wanted to do what was right, and pay her fair share, but the weight of these large bills were more than she could handle.

I wrote a well thought out letter to the hospital, petitioning them to forgive Liz’s debt, and providing a rationale for why I felt that they do this. The amazing thing: I received a prompt reply from them. They agreed to bring all of her accounts out of collection, and reduce them to a zero balance, for both the hospital and for the physicians amounts owed.

What a wonderful outcome and phone call it was for me to call Liz and inform her of this great news. Imagine her relief to no longer have this burden. And, it is encouraging that the hospital administration truly do have a heart.

Medical Bills and Arbitrary Costs: Add These Strategies to Your Toolkit

Media, consumer advocates and others talk a lot about how many of us are facing absurdly high costs for medical treatments. We know that these charges range significantly from location to location and that many times you may be hit with the majority of the balance. Not everyone, though, is talking about actual, practical ways to protect yourself from excessive costs when you obtain care at a local doctor’s office, hospital or other facility.

Asking the Right Questions

Almost all of the practical strategies for “consumer cost control” in medical offices focus on getting answers from medical providers. Asking relevant questions before, during and after a visit can help you avoid some of the most ridiculous charges that show up on medical bills.

One tip is to ask for an itemized list of charges. Itemization of a medical bill will show you whether any costs for a particular procedure have been padded or exaggerated, for example, in bills for supplies and related expenses. Some doctors have begun to bill different aspects of consultation separately and this is another area where an itemized bill can come in handy.

Look At the Medical Codes

Medical consultants are now advising to look at the CPT codes that show up on your medical bills. CPT codes represent specific procedures and treatments, and you can use these to help find a fair price online. It is becoming increasingly common for individuals to look for these kinds of “blue book values” for medical procedures when negotiating with a provider. Experts also recommend checking out the government’s reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid to see if your doctor is charging you too much for a specific procedure.

Look for Alternatives

Another way to lower overall medical costs is to decline some of the more expensive and less necessary treatments that your doctor may suggest. Lots of medical advocates tell patients to always apply the “BRAIN” ( benefits, risks, alternatives, intuition, nothing) principle to their questions in the doctor’s office. This involves looking at the pros and cons of procedures, as well as what lower-priced alternatives may be available, as well as checking your intuition or “gut feeling” about a suggested treatment. Then, evaluate the consequence of delaying treatment for a health condition.

One reason that consumer advocates suggest this kind of questioning is that a doctor’s suggested treatments are not always the only course of action for any given health condition, and sometimes, a practical approach can reveal perfectly good alternatives that can come with a much lower price tag.

Look for Discounts and Other Payment Options

Another great tip is to look for payment plans and other options from your local medical providers. Many providers have begun to offer these options to patients. Some patients who are facing high-dollar bills can even qualify for charity, especially if their insurer declined huge portions of their bill. Make sure that you keep all of these strategies handy for dealing with medical bills that threaten to ruin your financial health.

Medical Education Pathways – Part 3 – Your Future Begins Now

TIPS AND STRATEGIES

How can one find information about foreign medical schools? How does one apply to medical school in another country? Students can either do the research and homework on their own, or find a student advocate to assist them in the process.

For students who want to take matters into their own hands, the most important things to look for are universities that are recognized by the appropriate accrediting bodies in the student’s home country. For example, American students looking for international medical schools should refer to the FAIMER website and search the IMED directory from their website for eligible medical schools around the world. It is also important to talk to the admission office and the international student office to determine if they are capable of assisting in matters such as housing, residence permits and other day-to-day aspects of living in a foreign country. Don’t forget to ask for names and contact information for alumni and current students of the university. Perhaps the most important factor in determining the reliability of an international program is the length of time that it has been available. Programs that have been around for more than 10 years have enough experience with foreign students to understand their needs. Programs with less than 10 years are still ‘learning the ropes’ and the program administration is typically not as smooth or easy as compared to more experienced programs. I have experienced both types of programs from a student’s perspective and from an administrator’s perspective. Programs with less than 10 years of experience are very difficult for both students and administrators to handle.

Many international medical schools work with student advocates in other countries to assist students who are interested in their programs. Student advocates are typically official representatives of the medical schools they claim to work with, and charge a fee for their service. If there is no stated upfront fee, the advocate has an arrangement with the university to receive a part of the students’ tuition fee. There are pros and cons to each financial model. It is important to note that it is not ethical for advocates to receive money from universities on a per-student basis, as this constitutes a conflict of interest. In the United States, it is a completely unacceptable practice. As with any other part of life, be wary of anyone who claims to give you something for nothing.

Applicants can contact local student advocates, search the internet, contact the universities directly or even visit the universities in order to get a better idea of the program, curriculum, culture and life outside of the university. It is important to confirm that the advocate has a good relationship with the university. It is also very important to make sure the advocate has a good history in dealing with students and universities. The best way to verify this is to ask to speak with some of their current students, and visit their office to be sure they are a legitimate organization. It is important to have a good advocate, because the advocate provides an initial stability and ongoing sense of security. It has been shown that students with support systems in place have lower attrition rates and better grades than students without such a support system.

An experienced and conscientious advocate will almost always insist on meeting the students and maybe even the family for an interview. After all, it is the whole family that is affected when a student decides to study overseas. It is important to establish a good relationship between the advocate and the student. Without this connection, the student might hesitate to reach-out for assistance if they need help while at school. Advocates typically help students during the transition, and stay close to the students in the first few months of school. As time passes and the students adjust to their new setting, they typically contact advocates only for more serious issues or in case of emergencies. It is typical for students to adapt quickly to their new surroundings and this natural ‘maturation’ allows advocates to stay focused on newer students.

Services an advocate might provide:

-Application processing & visa/immigration facilitation
-Arrange interviews locally – this saves students and parents from having to fly to the university before knowing they are accepted
-Many student advocates set up housing, internet access, cell phones, bank accounts, health insurance, etc…
-Advocates typically have employees in or around the university to provide on-site assistance for their students
-More comprehensive programs offer USMLE and residency counseling, and the possibility of some clinical rotations in the US to students in the program.

Whatever the situation, nothing replaces thorough research on the part of the student.

There are many advantages to an international medical education. It is a great opportunity for students who may not otherwise have the chance. There are so many bright young people in this country who could be great doctors if given the opportunity.

Well, the opportunity is here. Your future begins now.

Good luck!

AMK