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Nonprofit hospitals, trade associations can lower medical bills

Thousands of Florida residents are struggling with medical debt, but few of them know that there are organizations that may negotiate on their behalf to lower their bills. Groups such as the Alliance of Claim Assistant Professionals scrutinize itemized hospital and doctor bills to identify errors and overcharging, and they are sometimes able to slash medical debts significantly when consumers are willing to settle quickly.

Medical services are generally provided before payment is made, and it is often difficult for doctors and hospitals to accurately predict the ultimate cost of providing treatment. Insurance companies know that medical bills often contain errors, and they have experts on staff who pore over the documentation submitted by health care providers and look for mistakes. However, consumers who are used to receiving credit card statements and car payment notices that can rarely be disputed may not be aware that medical bills could be negotiable.

Medical debts may also be disputed when health care has been provided by a not-for-profit hospital. These institutions are expected to provide benefits to their local communities including free or discounted health care for individuals with limited incomes, but research suggests that nonprofit hospitals provide little more in the way of free treatment than their for-profit counterparts.

Unpaid medical bills are often sold to debt collection firms for pennies on the dollar, and these companies have been known to use tactics that border on intimidation. Filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 personal bankruptcy puts a stop to creditor harassment and prevents paychecks from being garnished, and lawyers with debt relief experience could point out that taking this path also offers consumers the chance of a fresh financial start.

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