Home > Managing Debt > How to Avoid Going Broke After an ER Visit

Comments 0 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


The terrifying experience of visiting the emergency room often continues when you receive the bill. Medical costs can be high and one trip to the emergency room can have a serious (and often disastrous) impact on your finances. Here are four tips to avoid going broke from a medical emergency.

1. Think About It Ahead of Time

My only trip to the emergency room started on the phone. As my friend lay severely dehydrated, suffering from food poisoning, I decided it was time to take him to the hospital. But he refused … unless I called the hospital ahead of time to ensure they took his insurance. I couldn’t believe it! But now I know how important it can be to think out your trip to the ER before you get there.

You don’t know when a medical emergency is going to happen but you can have all of your health information organized so you are ready. Have a current copy of your medical records, including any medications you are on and any allergies you may have, in an easily accessible place.

2. Break It Down

When you receive a bill from the hospital, request an itemized copy. This way you can look over all of the individual services and costs you are being charged. Make sure the bill is an accurate reflection of the care you received. Go over it line by line. Look for errors, making sure you weren’t charged for a treatment you didn’t receive and then you aren’t double-billed for anything.

3. Ask for Clarification

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you see a code, an abbreviation or even a service listed on your bill that you don’t understand, call the hospital billing office. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed to want to know what you are paying for.

If you find an error, contact the hospital or physician right away. Send a letter detailing what you think is incorrect and ask for a detailed explanation of the charges. The key is not to wait too long to initiate a dispute.

4. Negotiate the Cost

Once you’ve reviewed the bill from your ER visit carefully and determined what you owe, you may discover you don’t have the cash on hand to pay it in full. Before you hand over a credit card to cover the cost, consider negotiating with the hospital. Call with specific questions. Some hospitals have resources available to help clients who can’t pay. But be ready to provide some documentation — to receive help from charity care programs you may need to show your recent pay stubs, copies of tax records and bank statements. This may be a hassle, but can be worth it if you are able to reduce the amount you owe. Plus, the hassle can save you from watching your credit scores plummet when you default on your bills.

If you’re worried a medical debt may be impacting your credit, the Credit Report Card can tell you how many negative accounts appear on your credit report and how they may be impacting your credit scores. You may also want to pull free copies of your credit reports to see where the negative accounts are coming from.

More on Managing Debt:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team