Are you worried about medical debt?

Because I'm the webmaster for, I've been monitoring some online discussion groups for peoples' questions about their own health care coverage. A lot of people are worried about going to the doctor, even if they have health insurance, because they are afraid of the cost. Unfortunately, this is a very reasonable fear! Apparently some insurers are now even denying people coverage RETROACTIVELY, meaning that the insurer agreed to cover treatment and then, afterwards, got the money back from the hospital and stuck the insured person with the bill. (I'll write about this shortly, there was a good news story on Dallas's CBS affiliate about the problem.)If you are afraid to go to a doctor now for fear it may cost you later, or if you have found yourself stuck with a medical bill that your insurer refuses to pay, there is a great FREE resource online that I have referred people to:"Options for Avoiding and Managing Medical Debt," jointly produced by Georgetown University's Health Policy Instituteand the National Endowment for Finance Education. The web address is It's very consumer-oriented and trustworthy (and did I mention, it's free? ;^) ).Here's what the book has to say in chapter 2, which is all about how to negotiate your medical bills, either in advance or after the fact:-talk to the right person (depending on what sort of bill it is, that might be the doctor, the office or billing manager, or one of the hospital's social workers)- don't take the first "no" as a final "no - be polite but persistent. In the case of hospitals, sometimes the first person you talk to is unaware of the hospital's policy on offering reduced-price services to the uninsured or people with limited financial resources, so you should try more than once to get to someone who may be better-informed or have the authority to act on your behalf.- do online research into what Medicare pays for particular services - much of this information is freely available because medicare is a federal government policy. when armed with this information you have more negotiating clout. The book contains links and guidelines for doing your research.-review your bill for mistakes - there is a link in the book to a Consumer Reports article on decoding medical bills to ensure you're not overcharged or double-charged, whether you have insurance or not.-work out a payment schedule with your doctor. it is unwise, in general, to put doctor's payments that you cannot afford now, onto a credit card. Credit card interest rates are high and the penalty for missing a payment is stiff, whereas many doctors' offices will charge no or very minimal interest to pay your medical bills off over time.The guide is great and includes many links for more information on each topic I outlined above, I strongly urge you to look it up if you are putting off seeking medical care because of the fear of its cost to you.