So what should people—other than New Yorkers—do if they’re confronted with a surprise medical bill?
Experts say you shouldn’t pay it right away, but you shouldn’t wait to act either. If a provider takes the bill to collections, it could ding your credit.
First, Ahn says, call your insurance company and ask them if they can pay the rest of the bill. If they refuse, call your state’s Department of Insurance. (Consumer’s Union has a tool for finding the correct contact information in each state.)
In the worst cases, you might have to contact a lawyer, Ahn says. Patients who can’t afford lawyers may need to be their own advocates. If either the insurance company or the provider won’t back down, Bell said, you might start sending certified letters in order to get their attention, “especially if the clock is ticking and the bill may be referred to collections.”
As Rosalsky learned, it can be a hassle. But it beats paying a cardiologist $30,000 that you don’t have.