Dealing with Debt

questions & answers

Question: If a medical provider does not bill you for more than a year, can they charge late fees or interest on the 20% Medicare did not pay? The doctor's office said it was due to a "software problem" in its billing program.

Answer:

Generally, a medical provider may charge interest on an unpaid balance for medical services of more than $10. This is termed a delinquency fee. Notice must be given that a delinquency fee will be imposed if the medical charges occurred after December 31, 2000. Notice can be given in two ways:

1. When a new patient comes to his or her first appointment and is asked to sign a number of forms, one of the forms will be an agreement to pay, and include interest charges on an unpaid or delinquent balance. By signing this form, the new patient agrees to be held personally responsible for payment and agrees to the payment terms as described; and

2. If the medical office previously did not charge interest, then after ten days notice, it may start collecting a delinquency fee on an unpaid balance. There are various ways to approach medical debt if it has not yet been turned over to a collection agency. It is sometimes possible to negotiate with the medical providers to have the bills reduced. You may also be able to negotiate a monthly payment plan at a low interest rate. If the senior has some type of coverage, there are appeals processes under the various plans, including Medicare and Medicaid that may be helpful in disputing a bill or coming up with a payment plan, if the bill is correct. Usually, these appeal processes have very strict deadlines. If the medical provider made a mistake in their billing process, you may be able to have them reverse the charges or negotiate a smaller fee. Simply call and ask, there is no harm in trying.

QUESTIONS

  • If a medical provider does not bill you for more than a year, can they charge late fees or interest on the 20% Medicare did not pay? The doctor's office said it was due to a "software problem" in its billing program.

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