Medical Bills? Tips to Protect Yourself Until Laws Improve

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How to Fight High Medical Bills

By Karla Bowsher

The Medical Debt Relief Act of 2015 would strengthen federal laws to better protect the credit of consumers hounded by medical-debt collectors.

The proposed legislation would remove repaid medical debts from credit reports within 45 days of the debts being paid off.

Rep. John Carney, a Democrat from Delaware, and Rep. Andy Barr, a Republican from Kentucky, introduced the bill last month, but it is "a long way from passage," CBS News reports today. It isn't unusual for disputes with providers and insurers to take months before they are resolved. Consumers who wait to pay their bill until the matter is resolved may see their lack of payment result in a negative notation on their credit report.

Barr said shortly afterward:

"Too many Americans face costly and unexpected medical bills. They should not have to endure the additional burden of years of bad credit due to an illness, injury, or even an inaccurate medical billing."

Until and unless the bill is passed and adopted into law, consumers can take certain actions to better protect themselves. Christina LaMontagne, general manager of health at NerdWallet, tells CBS News they include:
  • Confirm whether heath care providers are in your insurance network before every visit and get it in writing if possible. "The majority of people who call us with bills that are $5,000 or more have had some sort of in-network/out-of-network complication," LaMontagne says.
  • Ask providers for estimates of planned procedures and how much of the cost would be covered by your insurance company.
  • Compare prices. "Our research shows that pricing can vary widely for the same procedures," LaMontagne says.
  • Verify that medical bills are correct before paying them to avoid paying for errors. For help understanding medical bills, check out "Is Your Doctor Overcharging You?"
If you're being hounded by debt collectors, be sure to also check out our Solutions Center. Among other things, it can help you with debt collector harassment.

Have you had any medical billing or insurance problems recently? Do you believe the Medical Debt Relief Act of 2015 could help consumers? Let us know what you think -- leave a comment below or on our Facebook page
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