How International Students Can Pay Their Medical Bills


Ed Zaleck | May 02, 2022 Insurance

In the U.S., nothing better reflects the chaos of the health care system than the process of paying your bill after you visit a medical provider. You may wait weeks to months before your provider sends your final medical bill due to the time it takes to generate the costs and submit a claim.

If there are any delays, you may find yourself looking at a bill you barely recognize months after your visit. If you find yourself in this position in the future, here is what you should do to avoid confusion.

Step 0: Bring your insurance information into your appointment and wait for EOB

There are many things you should be cognizant of well before you receive your medical bill, both before and after your visit.

First, you should always send your insurance ID card information sometime before or during your medical visit. For your insurance to pay anything towards your visit, a claim needs to be submitted and your ID card will give the provider the instructions needed to do so for you.

After your visit, you should receive an explanation of benefits (EOB) from the insurance which explains how much was paid towards each service you received and the reason why (or why not). This may seem strange as you will generally receive your EOB before your medical bill, but this is common protocol.

Please note that the EOB is not a bill and you will not make payments through your insurance company.

Step 1: Review the itemized bill and verify the charges are accurate

Once your claim is processed and ready, you should receive your medical bill via mail and/or e-mail. You’ll typically get some general information about what you need to pay and methods on how to do so but the main thing you should look for is the itemized bill.

This is a general overview of the services you had done and how much you were charged for each. Some providers may not send a full itemized bill unless requested so it’s always imperative to do so if you don’t receive it as it is the only way to verify you were charged the correct amount.

Look through this itemized bill to make sure you were charged for every service you had rendered and that the costs look accurate. If you think you were charged too much for something or were incorrectly charged for a service, bring it up to the billing department immediately.

If you were not charged for something you had done, this might be because you will be receiving another bill from another provider. This is especially common in hospitals, where you may need to see a different doctor for things such as imaging, surgery, etc.

Step 2: Check to see if the insurance payment went through and take action if not

Once you looked through your charges and verified them, you should check to see if there are any insurance adjustments listed on your itemized bill. Your next actions should be based on two factors.

  • If you see insurance adjustments listed
  • If you’ve received your EOB from the insurance

Insurance adjustments taken out, EOB received- In this scenario, this should mean that your claim was successfully submitted and processed. You can verify the information between the bill and EOB matches but if it’s accurate, you can move forward with your payment.

Insurance adjustments taken out, EOB not received- Contact your insurance as soon as possible in this scenario. Your claim was probably processed but you should always get the EOB to make sure everything is correct.

Insurance adjustments not taken out, EOB received- In this case, check your EOB to see if your claim was denied. If it is, you can review the reason why and see if you can submit an appeal to your insurance. Your insurance could also need additional information to process a claim so take action there if it’s requested.

Insurance adjustments not taken out, EOB not received- In this case, it’s safe to assume the claim was not received by the insurance. Contact the provider immediately to see if the claim was sent to right place and ask if they can re-submit it to the accurate address. Many insurance companies will have a set period of time in which a claim must be submitted for it to be eligible for coverage so you need to be prompt and should contact the insurance to update them.

Step 3: Explore payment options and pay your bill

Once you finally have your claim processed and are charged for the accurate amount, you’ll move forward to completing your payment. Almost all providers will accept credit/debit card or check/money order and some smaller offices may still accept cash. You can check your medical bill to see if you can pay online, over the phone or mail.

Even with insurance, you may find yourself in a scenario where the amount you are asked to pay is too much for you to make in one payment. Medical providers are well aware of the high costs and allow for alternative payment options.

There are many options available for you to consider:

  • Negotiate a rate/payment plan with the provider- You can always try to set up an installment-based payment plan through your provider first. In many cases, you may be able to negotiate a discounted rate or set up an interest free payment plan.
  • Non-profits- Your medical provider may have some partnerships set up with non-profits which you can explore if you aren’t able to negotiate your plan down enough. Ask them for information if not readily available.
  • Medical credit cards- These are specifically for medical treatment payments which help you by offering interest free payment period for the first 6-24 months (with high rates after). The best known company for this is CareCredit.
  • Loans- Taking out a loan is an option but should be a last resort though as it’s very easy to find yourself in a large sums of debt.

It’s very imperative to pay your bills once you receive them because if not, hospitals have the option to transfer your debt to collection agencies. These companies are persistent and are able to report any debts you may have to credit agencies in the U.S., which can tank your credit score.

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