When medical bills aren't covered by insurance, the costs can be catastrophic. However multiple charities and aid programs offer help. The hospital also may agree to reduce payment if you can prove you're in need of assistance.
To find affordable medical care in your community, you can use a website such as the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinic's online clinic finder. You also can talk to your county or state health department about services available locally.
Check with your healthcare provider as well. North Carolina's Duke Medicine, for example, says if you don't think you can pay your bill, Duke will help you apply to aid programs, or see if you qualify for a reduced payment based on your income.
Qualifying for Help
Each charity and government program has its own requirements for claiming medical hardship. New Jersey's Hospital Care Payment Assistance Program, for example, lists the following standards:
- You have no insurance, or your health coverage only pays part of the bill
- You're ineligible for "sponsored coverage" such as Medicaid
- You meet the state's asset and income eligibility requirements
At time of writing, your assets must be $7,500 or less; family assets must be $15,000 or less. If your income is 200 percent of the federal poverty-level income or less, the program pays the bill. Above 200 percent a sliding scale kicks in until aid stops at the 300 percent level.
To apply, go to the business office at the hospital you plan to receive treatment from. Present documentation of your financial situation. The hospital then has 10 days to tell you if you qualify.
For another example, the Texas Health Care nonprofit hospital chain says it may write off your bill if your income is 200 percent of poverty-level income or less. Patients above that level can qualify on a sliding scale. Texas Health Care says if you're receiving care from one of their hospitals you can apply in person, by phone, by mail or online, at any point int he billing process.
Documenting Your Situation
Each program has its own requirements for documentation and paperwork. The Mayo Clinic, for example, says that along with the application paperwork, it wants several items:
- Your three most recent bank statements.
- Pay stubs for the past 90 days.
- A copy of your past two tax returns, as well as your spouse's, and anyone who claims you as a dependent.
- Any income from personal injury or accident-related claims.