The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) was recently passed by Congress and signed into law. This was a direct response to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and attempts to provide a stimulus to the economy as well as help those who are unemployed or need medical care because of the pandemic.
The law has a number of provisions relating to medical care related to the Coronavirus, among other things. For example, the bill mandates that insurers provide free tests and not charge a co-pay for conducting the tests. However, you would likely still need to pay for treatment along the same lines that you would for any other kind of medical treatment covered by your insurance. If you have Medicare or Medicaid, those the specific rules relating to those programs would apply.
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If you do not have insurance, you would likely still need to pay for treatment out of pocket. However, if you received medical treatment and are not able to pay for it because you lack insurance, hospital charity care may be available depending on the hospital where you received treatment.
Charity care is required of most non-profit hospitals in Illinois and usually involves hospitals writing off treatment provided when a patient cannot pay. However, you need to contact the hospital’s Billing Department to determine whether you qualify for charity care.
Each hospital may have its own requirements for determining eligibility and you generally do not have a right to charity care at a specific hospital. If you are low income and have difficulty paying out of pocket, it is always a good idea to contract the hospital to see if you are eligible.
The hospital will likely require proof of income and assets, as well as other information to prove that you in fact would qualify for charity care. If you do qualify, the hospital would write off some or all of the debt you owe.
Unfortunately, some hospitals do sue patients when they are not able to pay medical bills. When this is the case, it is often the best bet to hire an attorney who is experienced in defending medical debt collection lawsuits. The hospital will often have to prove that not only the services were actually rendered, but that the medical services were reasonably required and that the amount charged was reasonable. If the hospital has difficulty proving this, which is often the case, your attorney will be able to negotiate a much more reasonable amount, or potentially have the entire case dismissed.
Your attorney will also be able to determine whether insurance, Medicare or Medicaid might be responsible for paying, and if that is the case, your attorney can help guide you through the process to have insurance or a third party pay for the medical care. A good debt collection defense attorney will be able to help evaluate whether bankruptcy might be your best option. While it’s often best to avoid bankruptcy, it may be a great solution for you if you have a large amount of medical bills and little assets or income.