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Negotiate Your Way to a Lower Bill
The billing department knows perfectly well that an $18,000 bill would be paid to the tune of $1000 to $1500 (if that) by most third party carriers, so you can often make a deal if you pay cash. Offer $500, but remember you have bills for the ER physicians, etc. Call everyone involved and ask politely and respectfully. Keep track of every person you talk to, what they say, and when. Don't be afraid to ask and stand your ground.
Another option when you can't pay an emergency room bill is setting up a small monthly payment. For example, if you pay $10 a month, they can do nothing. However, who wants this hanging over their head? It is often better to try to make an arrangement. It may also be beneficial for taxes.
If you have more time than money, maybe you could work out an arrangement with the hospital working as a volunteer. Make sure you get everything in writing and keep track of your hours so you get the proper reduction of your emergency room bill.
Try getting help with the Help Column in your local newspaper and/or television station, or even a local reporter. Remember that they like to hear interesting stories and often can help you and give advice, as can your local politicians. Hospitals are businesses, and they don't want news people or too many people looking too closely at them and their billing practices.
AHCA and JCAHO accredit hospitals and like to hear about abuses of the system. These are names that are handy to mention when talking to hospital administrators.
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