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raven860's avatar

How to pay for hospital bills without insurance?

Asked by raven860 (2144 points ) July 30th, 2012 from iPhone

My aunt was admitted to an ER room for 3rd degree burns (scales goes from 1–4). She does not have medical insurance but her husband does (from his employer). They are not citizens of this country and are on a H1 Visa. She suffered the burns after miss handling of a pressure cooker that was boiling beans. What are their financial options? Can you give us any advice ( perhaps from experience of a similar situation)

Thanks for reading.

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20 Answers

raven860's avatar

Additional info: She is in her late 20s or early 30s. She has no serious illness that are known about.

JLeslie's avatar

Is it just an ER bill, or was she admitted inpatient too? The ER bill should not be very bad, maybe $500—$1,000 at the most, and usually you can negotiate it down if you pay it all at once. You will also have the option to pay it over time. Many times it can be as little as $10 a month. You just set it up for the money to be paid automatically monthly on a credit card. It is also possible there is some sort of organization that can help you, a charitable organization. I have heard of charities for victims of assaults that help cover hospital bills for the uninsured, but this sort of accident I am not sure.

Her status should not matter. I don’t even think the hospital would be aware if she is a citizen or not.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

In my past experiences with no insurance then the hospital has sent bills and allowed me to make payments in amounts I could handle monthly, no interest either.

bkcunningham's avatar

They are entitled to every right that an American citizen has except the right to vote. Contact the county social services and see if they can help you with additional information about what financial assistance is available. She can’t be turned away and refused medical care. That is a good thing. God bless her. Pressure cookers can be very dangerous. I hope she has a speedy recovery.

Judi's avatar

Did this happen at work? If so, it should be covered by workers compensation insurance.

JLeslie's avatar

Great question @Judi.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie The last time I went to the ER, it was closer to $5k, plus another ~$600 for the ambulance, and when my wife went to Urgent Care, that was $1500.
You are correct that they will work with you on a repayment schedule though. Also, they often offer discounts to the uninsured; that is why my father-in-law only owed $67,000 instead of $100,000 for his three-month stay in the ICU.
The bills pile up, but so long as you make good-faith arrangements, they are quite accommodating.

@Judi Very good catch! If so, it should not cost a dime.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv There is no mention of an ambulance, and if all they did was hydrate her, give her pain meds, and slather on some salve, I can’t see it being more than $1,000, unless it is in a very expensive market. But you never know with our medical system, I might be way off.

$67k in 90 days is $700 a day more or less. ICU, where they have lots of monitoring and fewer patients per nurse.

raven860's avatar

@JLeslie, @Judi, @bkcunningham, @Neizvestnaya, @jerv

She does not work and this happened at home unfortunately. Thankfully no one else was hurt. The burns were 2nd degree (i.e skins got completely damaged but not flesh or bone). She was taken to the hospital in an ambulance after a 911 call and she has been transferred from the ER room to the hospital building for an overnight stay. I think it is very likely she will be released sometime tomorrow after another change of bandages and from then on she will be in the care of a ‘burn clinic’ for future bandage changes (either at home or visits to their clinic).

I am not too familiar with hospital fees and so decided to ask you guys regarding what to expect. I think if the bill is not some outrageous amount then my uncle or our family for that matter can easily manage. However, they had to pay roughly $3500 per night for a room when my aunt was delivering her daughter and so we are expecting similar charges.

Thank you for your suggestions and kind words!

Judi's avatar

Make sure they try to negotiate the bill down. Hospitals would rather get some money than no money. If they turn it over to cleft ions they loose between 30–50% and the collection agency gets all the interest. As long as you keep talking to them and get someone reasonable she should be able to work something out.

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JLeslie's avatar

I’m guessing the $3500 covered taking care of the baby also. I’m thinking the hospital stay will be a little less than that, and again you can negotiate a little.

Have they thought of getting some sort of catastrophic insurance? It usually does not cost too much. It covers things like hospital stays, but not doctors visits. There is usually a high deductible also, but if God forbid something very bad happens and the bill is $30k, you have coverage. Hopefully, with Obama’s new healthcare they can afford health insurance.

Of course, I have no idea of their financial situation, but even if they don’t take insurance, if they can, they should purposely save for future health problems in my opinion. Maybe they have done that.

raven860's avatar

@Judi @JLeslie

Yup that has been the strategy for now. They haven’t told us the total cost yet and will call. They have both (my uncle and aunt ) have returned home.

Actually, during their daughters birth the total cost was about $20k and the $3500 was the charge per night (as my uncle states). He had bought insurance at the time and so he only had to pay about $1500.

My uncle’s current job is not that great. ( They pay him with much lower than his market value and the benefits are terrible). If he ensures his entire family through them then it costs him 25% of his income. He was in the process of getting insurance from someone independent of his workplace but hadn’t done it yet.

He is also looking for a better job now and so hopefully he will find a good one and he won’t have such issues in the future. They still are a young family ( it’s been slightly over two years from when he graduated from graduate school) and so far most of his saving have been spent in paying off his student loans.

JLeslie's avatar

Ok, the hospital bill when you have insurance is not a real bill, not even close. My recent hospital stay was supposedly $30k for two nights and I paid around $2500. That is not because the insurance company paid the rest, literally the actual bill wound up being around $2500. When you see how ridiculous those numbers are it gives you an inkling that it is all total and utter bullshit. Augustlan actually recently sent me an article how there is a bill being presented in Arizona to do away with this sort of false billing and also to make law that patients should be able to get information if procedures are cheaper if paid as self pay rather than as a percentage of a negotiation done by the insurance company. Literally I have been charged more out of my pocket using insurance than if I had just paid on my own without. It’s all a scam a game, I swear, to make people believe their worls will fall apart if we get rid of insurance companies and to make the general public believe without them prices in medicine would be even higher for the consumer. I won’t rant any more, just know, no one is paying those crazy crazy high numbers on bills that supposedly show the regular price and the insurance price.

hearkat's avatar

There should be social workers and counselors at the hospital that would know of any resources, such as Charity Care, or to help set up a payment plan.

raven860's avatar

As an update, the bill finally came in and after a 40% discount it is about $2900. Certainly an amount that isn’t too bad. The husband will be buying insurance soon ( he was considering it and had found an affordable option but he had gotten lazy and then the accident happened and he didn’t have a policy that covered her)

Thank you for all your suggestions.

JLeslie's avatar

Thanks for the update. Has she healed up ok?

raven860's avatar

@JLeslie

Yea she is doing well. So far she has been able to remove the bandages off her right arm and left arm ( but not the bicep region). She still has bandages over her chest ( which is the main portion). She has a check up appointment today and so we will know more then. Thankfully so far no infection have occurred. The doctor and one of her friends who is in medical school have both said that she should make a full recovery and the scars shouldn’t be bad. At best she can expect the skin to become as if it never happened. Some have recommended pure coconut oil or extract to get rid of the scars ( I am not entirely sure).

Also, not that I would encourage people to try this but have you ever used Baking soda or vinegar for treating 1st or 2nd degree burns? A friend suggested it to here and we were all appalled by the idea. However, a quick search on Google revealed that Baking Soda has a very soothing effect and is quite effective.

JLeslie's avatar

@raven860 I actually have very little knowledge about treating burns. Minor burns if you run cold water over the area right away it can avoid the burn. Say if you touch a hot pot, or even if you burn your mouth by taking a bite of hot food. Put you hand under running cold water from the sink (unless you live in a very hot climate, then you might want to dunk your hand in ice water. Not direct ice on the skin. You can just hold ice water in your mouth a few times. Drink, hold, swallow, repeat three times, and completely, or almost completely avoid the burn. But, 2nd or 3rd degree I should probably read up on or ask my sister (she used to work in a burn unit). I know wounds will heal with less scarring if you keep ointment on them, but specifically for burns I don’t know if that is recommended?

Vinegar I think has been suggessted for stings? So maybe it has some sort of agent in it that reduces pain? I don’t know. Was the baking soda and vinegar supposed to help with healing? Or, just the pain?

jerv's avatar

Baking soda and vinegar (together) is for making volcanoes for a second-grade science fair. Not sure if I would trust either separately for easily infected wounds.

For burns, the best thingI’ve found is pure Aloe. Straight from the plant is best, and definitely not lotion that contains aloe along with lots of other crap. 100% aloe. Take it from someone who is used to being spattered with molten metal.

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