Unpaid medical bills? New online service offers strong medicine

Years ago, I had a shoddy health insurance service. To this day, I'm not sure why my health agent steered me to it, because he seemed like such a nice, intelligent man. In his defense, though, I was in my mid-20s, broke and probably asked him to give me the cheapest health insurance plan he could whip up.

Unfortunately, I still had it when my first daughter was born, and I had it when she was a year old and needed some eye surgery, to remove a non-cancerous tumor. Three or four years later, long after I had switched to some much better coverage, I was still paying the portion of the medical bills for that surgery that my health insurance plan didn't cover.

I bring this up because IOUSOS just debuted last week (get it? I.O.U. and S.O.S. combined). It's a new online patient medical bill clearinghouse. If you're having trouble paying old medical bills, this service can help you come up with a payment plan, and if you think you'll never be able to pay off the bill, it can help you settle the account.

Granted, I don't think it's doing anything that I wasn't able to do on my own (I negotiated a payment plan with the hospital where we had the surgery, and the people on the other end of the phone were perfectly pleasant with me), or that anyone can't do on their own. But I do see the appeal, if you're behind on your bills and you intend and want to pay but would rather do it with a few clicks of the mouse instead of waiting on hold to speak with someone over the phone.

In any case, if you're behind on a hospital bill, you're not alone. According to the folks at IOUSOS, unpaid patient bills currently total $162 billion each year.
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