Making sense of a medical bill may be a little like reading a foreign language for the first time.
Thankfully, help is available if a consumer will reach out to the agency sending the bill.
Often, the best bet is to contact the health care provider directly and visit with someone in the customer relations department. Many providers have people specially trained to assist people with their questions.
Larry W. Morris, administrative director of the revenue cycle for Stormont Vail Health, said people sometimes experience consternation after getting a medical bill, in large part because they are confused about what their insurance will — and won’t — cover.
“Patients often find that one of the biggest frustrations is that they don’t understand why their insurance did not pay more for their visit,” Morris said. “Some patients do not have a good understanding of what a deductible or co-insurance is until they receive a patient statement. Patients often call in with questions, and we work to help explain it to them.”
People who would like to see more detail on their bill can contact customer service agents at the facility where they received their care to request an itemized listing of charges for the services they received.
“Patients can always contact customer service if they believe there is an error in what they were charged,” he said. “We will have the charge reviewed to verify accuracy. We will then contact the patient to explain why the charge is correct, or let them know there was an error and how we are correcting it.”
For Stormont Vail patients needing someone to help explain charges on their bill, Morris suggested several options:
Patients can call (785) 354-1150 or (800) 637-4716 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If they call between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., they can leave a message with a call-back number.
Patients can go online at stormontvail.org and use their “My Chart” sign-in to ask a billing question.
Individuals can email their questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stormont Vail also has two customer service locations: 1500 S.W. 10th Ave., on the hospital’s first floor by the registration area, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Cotton O’Neil Garfield, 901 S.W. Garfield, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Many health care providers, including Stormont Vail, will work with patients to set up plans so they can make installment payments on their bills.
“Stormont Vail Health has several payment options for our patients to pay their balances,” Morris said. “If they are unable to pay their balance in full, we offer interest-free extended payment plans. Depending on the balance owed, the payment plan can go up to 36 months. We also have a low-interest bank loan program for a longer term to lower the monthly payment.”
Additionally, he said, Stormont Vail Health has a financial assistance program for patients who are unable to pay for emergency or other medically necessary care.
“A patient determined to be eligible for the financial assistance program will not be charged more for emergency or other medically necessary care than amounts generally charged to patients who have insurance covering such care,” he said. “Financial assistance discounts range from 65 percent to 100 percent of the balance owed, depending upon the patient’s annual income and net worth. The amount owed after applying the financial assistance discount is capped at 30 percent of the patient’s annual income and can be paid over 36 months with no interest.”
Susan Harris, executive director of the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging in Topeka, said senior adults “often get confused when the medical bills come, because they have difficulty matching up their bill from the doctor to the statements of benefits that Medicare and their supplemental insurance company send out.”
“When we do insurance counseling for a Medicare beneficiary,” Harris said, “we thoroughly explain to them how to read those statements of benefits and counsel them to not pay a bill until they are sure that all their insurance options have paid.”
Medicare counselors available through the Senior Health Insurance Counseling of Kansas — or SHICK — can help people figure out if the medical bill they have received is correct and if they are responsible for the bill.
“We can also assist seniors with calling their medical provider to work out any issues with billing,” Harris said.
Senior adults requesting more information can call the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging at (785) 235-1367 or SHICK at (800) 860-5260.