Medical Bill Meltdown: How to Pay for an ER Visit with No Insurance

Updated on April 9, 2019

If you’ve had to make a trip to the emergency room and ended up with a huge bill, you’re not alone. The average ER cost was $1,917 in 2016, but some people can find their bills run over $10,000!

Unlike insured patients who may pay a co-pay and co-insurance, you’ll receive a bill for the full cost of your ER visit without health insurance. This surprise can really hit you hard financially.

While you may feel tempted to ignore the bill, don’t! Avoiding the problem will make things worse as the hospital can turn you over to a collection agency. 

Luckily, you have several options to pay for your ER visit with no insurance. In some cases, you might get your bill completely eliminated, but you can still save at least a little money.

Read on for five ways to pay for your hospital bills with no insurance.

1. Check Whether You’re Eligible for Financial Assistance

If your income is under 400 percent of the federal poverty level, you can likely take advantage of your hospital’s charity care program.

These programs usually provide free medical care if you make under 200 percent of the federal poverty level and a sliding scale of fees for those making between 200 and 400 percent. Some programs also offer hardship programs for those making higher incomes.

Whether you apply before or after you get treatment, you can expect to fill out an application and show proof of your income, assets, and other expenses. Expect to show bank account statements, tax returns, and income documentation. You’ll also have to provide information for other family members. 

Once approved, the hospital will contact you to confirm the amount you must pay with the program. If you’re lucky, you might not have to pay anything at all for visiting the emergency room with no insurance.

2. Get a Payment Plan for Your Hospital Bill

Even if you make too much for charity care, you’re not out of luck. Most hospitals are willing to set up payment plans for people who have to pay hospital bills with no insurance. This will allow you to pay what you can afford until the bill is paid off.

You can call or visit the hospital and make an offer to make equal payments over a set period of time. Be sure to ask if there are any fees for setting up the plain and whether interest applies, though. Otherwise, you might have to handle an even larger debt.

The key is to act quickly when you get your bill so that you can set up payments before the account goes to collections. It will be far easier to work out payments with the hospital than have to go through the collection agency and also have your credit score hit.

3. Ask the Hospital for Discounts

In some cases, you might have some spare cash, but not enough for the full ER bill. This is when negotiating with the hospital for a cheaper bill can help.

Reach out to the hospital and ask for them to send you an itemized bill showing every cost from your ER visit. You can compare costs to what’s standard in the industry and ask the hospital to bring those costs down. 

If you can especially pay in cash rather than with a credit card, the hospital may cut you a better deal since it avoids processing fees. You might even save as much as 10 to 20 percent just for asking!

4. Use a Credit Card

Using a credit card can be a good option for paying off hospital bills with no insurance. This works best when the amount owed is not too large and when you expect to pay off the balance within a few months. 

If you feel tempted to spread the cost across multiple credit cards, be aware of the minimum payments and interest charges for each. You don’t want to end up with late fees on top of your medical debt.

To get the best deal, you might consider applying for a new credit card with no interest for a promotional period. You might find some cards that give you as many as 18 months to pay off your debt without interest.

5. Consider Taking Out a Third-Party Loan

Especially if you have no credit card, there are times when you might need to take out a loan to pay for the emergency room with no insurance. You can ask for loans from your family and friends or contact banks and other loan agencies.

If you expect to have enough cash when you receive your next paycheck, then taking out a payday loan from a company like Bonsai Finance is an option.

Payday loans are available quickly and fully online, and you don’t have to worry about your credit score since you can get a payday loan even with bad credit. Be sure you can pay the loan back when you get your paycheck, though, since interest rates tend to run higher for these convenient loans.

You can also find regular personal loans that have lower interest rates and a set payment for the term you select. You’ll want to apply online or in person at a bank.

While personal loans can save you in interest charges, do note that you’ll need to have good credit to qualify in most cases. Also, it can take up to a few weeks to receive your personal loan funds. 

Now You Have Options to Pay for Your ER Visit With No Insurance

Hopefully, now you feel a little less overwhelmed about paying for your ER visit with no insurance. For the best results, work with the hospital first to eliminate or reduce your bill before you turn to loans and credit cards.

You may also want to consider enrolling in health insurance when you’re able. If you earn a low income, you can even receive free or very cheap insurance through the government.

For more healthcare news and tips, be sure to visit our blog.

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