Bills Logo

Information on Help with Hospital Bills

Help With Hospital Bills
Mark Cappel
UpdatedFeb 19, 2009
Key Takeaways:
  • The laws governing medical billing vary between states.
  • Contact the medical service provider to set up a payment plan.

Need some advice on how to reach a payment agreement for hospital bills.

I have been temporarily laid off and called a hospital that I have been making regular payments to in order to make new payment arrangements with them. I was sent a lengthy form which I was told I must fill out in order to get any kind of extension or refinancing at all, even temporarily. These forms ask for very personal info, even my bank acct. number! I was shocked. Can they legally require this information from me? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

The laws governing hospital billing and payments vary greatly between states, counties, and cities, and may apply differently depending on whether it is a private or public hospital, as well as other factors. To find out the specifics regarding the legality of the hospital’s requests, you would need to consult with a qualified attorney with knowledge of pertaining laws in the hospital's jurisdiction.

That said, many hospitals have a financial counselor/financial assistance office where you can meet with someone face-to-face or over the telephone to discuss your situation. You should feel free to ask them why they request specific information and if they will accept alternatives. You might want to keep in mind that some hospitals allow their financial assistance office a certain degree of latitude in evaluating hardship cases, so engaging them in a polite and courteous manner may help you as you negotiate your case.

When having problems regarding medical bills, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends the following:

  • Notify the appropriate offices quickly.
  • Keep in touch with your creditors.
  • Record the names and phone numbers of who you are dealing with.
  • Document the date, time, and results of your phone calls.
  • Pay something — even a small amount — on each bill each month as a gesture of good faith.

I would also encourage you to download our free Personal Finance Budget Guide. It may help you plan your money management as you navigate the road ahead.

Good Luck,



JJane, Apr, 2012
I live in AZ. My husband works part time making less than 10/hr and due to my health situation I will probably not be able to go back to my 10/hr job. We have very little savings. We have very little in bills. We own our house outright (thank god). I am about to have a procedure done at a private hospital in Phoenix and have the Federal Pre-existing insurance (PCIP). Unfortunately the deductible is $1000, and I pay 20% of the bill up to $4000. And I have to find a way to keep paying my insurance premiums of $500 month. I know I will incur about $5000 debt total with this visit, how much should I expect to have to pay a month to the hospital (hopefully they will take monthly payments not sure). How do I negotiate a reasonable monthly payment? I own my house outright and am worried about loosing it (to debt from this). Any ideas greatly appreciated.
BBill, Apr, 2012
I think your options are to speak with the hospital billing office. You can do so before the procedure or after. It may be prudent to wait until after, to make sure that your disclosure does not jeopardize the care you need to receive.

I can't give you an estimate for the size of the monthly payment that the hospital will accept. I can tell you that, in a worst case scenario, an unpaid debt could lead to a lawsuit, judgment, and collection efforts that include wage garnishment, bank levy, and a lien against you. Even if a lien is filed and would need to be paid if you sold the home, the odds that it could lead to you losing your house are astronomically small. I have not heard of a case where a homeowner is forced to sell her home for a few thousand dollar debt.
KKarin, Oct, 2011
Two years ago I had my gall bladder removed, I paid my deductible, I paid off the anesthesiologist which was $600.00 plus I paid off other fees. Soon after I got laid off, and because I could not find a job,I live in Las Vegas, I had to apply for Social Security Benefits. I have paid $25.00 every single month, and now the hospital wants me to pay $1,616.66 in full or they will send me to a collection agency. I am on a fixed budget and can't afford to pay it off. When I spoke to the person at the hospital, his reply was to get a loan to pay the hospital off. Can the Hospital send my account to a collection agency even though I have not missed a payment? I need your help on this.
BBill, Oct, 2011
Your question is a frequent one among readers. See the resource If I pay a small amount on my credit card every month, can the collections department still call me? for a discussion of this issue. I encourage you to ask follow-up questions on that page.
xxxxPushXXX, Mar, 2011
Can a hospital or a court put a lien on my house that I own for outrageous docters bills? I am from Michigan.
BBill, Mar, 2011
Your word "outrageous" gives me pause. By outrageous do you mean unreasonable? If you were charged for services you did not receive, or were charged significantly more than promised or the going rate for the services received, then you may have a cause of action for a breach of contract lawsuit against the service providers. However, just because a medical bill is large does not make it outrageous. A $100,000 medical bill to diagnose a sprained ankle may be unreasonable, but $100,000 for a heart transplant may be a bargain.

If the charges are reasonable, then depending on your state's debt laws, yes, a judgment-debtor may have the right to place a lien on your real property. Consult with a lawyer in your state who has experience in civil litigation or medical malpractice to learn more about your rights.
xxxxPushXXX, Mar, 2011
Ok many thanks for the info,,,
NNichole, Jan, 2011
My parents live in Florida. A couple of years ago my mother (who is 63, a cancer survivor and uninsured and unisurable) was in the hospital for a month. One of the many hospital bills was for $27,900. My father who is 80 and retired only lives on his social security and therefore they are unable to pay. When the debt collectors got involved they lowered it greatly but wanted $5000 in a lump sum, in which my parents could not do still. The hospital ended up taking the case to court and came to the conclucion that my parents are now responsible for the original amount of $27,900 and have therefore put a lien on their house with 4% interest until paid. There house isn't worth much more than the amount to begin with. What can I do to help them? I live in CA and I feel like there has to be something else that can be done. Do you have any suggestions? My parents are both not that educated and I feel like I am capable of doing more research and finding help for them but I just don't know where to start. Please help! Thank you!
BBill, Jan, 2011
Nichole, there are two main options I see. One is to negotiate with the hospital to see if they will accept a reduced pay-off to settle the debt. If you were not able to help your parents pay the $5,000 settlement that was offered to clear out the debt, previously, then you may not be able to help them now. However, you may not have aware of the $5,000 settlement offer when it was made. If negotiating is not an option, maybe your parents should consider filing bankruptcy. Do they have any other debts? As residents of Florida, if they qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy that will discharge their debts, all the equity in their home is protected. I recommend that you and your parents speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney who is located in Florida.
BBill, Dec, 2010
A bit of background: A debt, which is called a collection account, is an asset that can be bought, sold, gifted, or traded. Typically, collection agents buy and sell collection accounts for pennies on the dollar. Apparently, City National Bank buys delinquent medical collection accounts, although a quick review of the bank's 10K statement indicates this is not a large part of its business. Just because it is a bank does not give City National Bank any special or different rights than any other collection agent. Negotiate your debt terms and payment plan like you would with a collection agent. Before you start, validate the debt.