Click the appropriate entry below to get the answers to some of the most common questions about hospital bills:
- How much do I really owe?
- Who will bill my insurance?
- What if I cannot pay?
- People with health insurance sometimes get negotiated discounts so they are not required to pay full charges. Are there special discounts for people who do not have insurance?
- Why does hospital care cost so much?
- Who do I call for help?
- Why did I receive a separate lab, doctor, or ambulance bill?
- Why did I receive a bill from a doctor I did not see?
- What if my hospitalization is the result of an accident?
How much do I really owe?
After your insurance company has reviewed your hospital bill and paid or denied their portion (a process that can take several months), the hospital will bill you for your part of the bill. Your hospital bill will show charges for whatever your insurance does not pay. Most insurance plans require patients to pay part of their hospital bill. If you have questions about your insurance, please contact your insurance company.
Who will bill my insurance?
Hospitals will bill your insurance company if you have given them the correct insurance information.
What if I cannot pay?
Hospitals have ways to help their patients. If you need help, please call the hospital billing office. Among the ways hospitals can help are:
Hospital Financial Assistance: Hospitals provide free or reduced price care if you qualify based on your income. Financial assistance can help with hospital bills for inpatient or outpatient care. Hospitals will help you find out if you qualify for financial assistance and help is offered to people with and without insurance. Click here to learn more about Washington’s charity care law.
Insurance Programs: Hospitals can help you apply for public insurance programs such as Medicaid and Basic Health. These programs may help you with your current bill and will help you pay for health needs in the future.
Payment Plans: If you need to pay your bill over time, hospitals can usually help you set up an appropriate payment plan.
People with health insurance sometimes get negotiated discounts so they are not required to pay full charges. Are there special discounts for people who do not have insurance?
Yes. Washington hospitals have generous charity care and financial assistance policies for people with and without insurance. If you have concerns in this area, ask the staff in the hospital’s billing office for an explanation. Click here to learn more about Washington’s charity care law.
Why does hospital care cost so much?
The answer is complex. As with any business, hospitals must attempt to cover their expenses by charging for their services. But with hospitals the cost of providing services includes many necessary and costly items that do not readily come to mind when most of us think about our care. We take it for granted that the hospital is there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Likewise, we have come to expect that hospitals will have all of the latest technology that could possibly be needed for our care. And we expect that the people caring for us are highly trained, highly skilled professionals. Finally, although we seldom think about it, the health care world is unique in that those who can pay for the services they use are asked to help pay for the care of others who cannot or will not pay.
Who do I call for help?
If you have questions about your bill, you should contact the billing office at the hospital where you received your care. If you do not have the direct number for the hospital billing office, call the hospital’s main switchboard and ask for the billing office.
Why did I receive a separate lab, doctor, or ambulance bill?
Many doctors, ambulance companies, and labs are separate businesses with their own billing and account procedures. State law requires a hospital to provide patients with a list of the groups that regularly provide care for patients at that hospital and from whom the patient may receive a bill. Ask your hospital’s billing office for this list.
Why did I receive a bill from a doctor I did not see?
Hospitals often consult with specialized doctors as part of caring for patients. Often these specialists are sent items such as lab tests or X-rays for their expert review. You will receive a bill directly from those doctors for their work.
What if my hospitalization is the result of an accident?
If you had a non-work related accident, the hospital will ask you for information about other insurance, like car insurance. If your accident or illness is work-related, the hospital will bill your employer’s workers’ compensation program. You must fill out the paperwork they need.