Money for help paying suicide-watch hospitalization bill?
January 20, 2012 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Money for help paying suicide-watch hospitalization bill?

Someone I know, but not very well, recently posted a suicide note online. A concerned friend called the police and the police took her to a hospital for observation.

All well and good, but now she's facing a hospital bill for $2200 that she can't afford, and her insurance won't help her. Unfortunately, the message she's taken from all this is pretty much "next time I won't tell anyone."

She doesn't really seem to have much of a support network right now, and I know she's pushed away several people she was formerly close to.

I guess my question is -- are there charitable organizations that deal with this kind of thing, anyone she could go to for help paying this off?
posted by webmutant to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Paying off her hospital bill is kind of the least of her problems. Your time might be better spent finding her a mental health provider that works on a sliding scale.

And if she really can't pay it, she should talk to the hospital. Most have some kind of charitable service she might qualify for or she can make small payments that are within her budget.
posted by shoesietart at 7:41 PM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

... and her insurance won't help her ...

Has she exhausted all of her options there?

If her insurance is refusing to pay for the inpatient care -- i.e. they decided she wasn't covered under their policies -- federal regulations give her the right to appeal that decision. (She can appeal twice, actually.) Help her check out the fine print and see what can be done.

Generally when you appeal you'll want to build a case establishing that her inpatient stay was "medically necessary" according to a) the criteria laid out in the plan policies of her insurance company, and b) the guidelines for best practices as supported by peer-reviewed medical literature. If her condition at the time of her hospitalization meets those criteria, she could have a shot at getting the bill paid for. (That's what insurance is for, right?)

Plus, one important part of the appeals process is that she can submit additional information to help bolster her claim. That likely means you and her other friends (especially the one who called the cops) can submit statements as "evidence" of what she was (and is) going through.

... She doesn't really seem to have much of a support network right now, and I know she's pushed away several people she was formerly close to ....

Clearly this means that you and whoever you can get to help will probably have to do the heavy lifting on a project like this. But perhaps it will at least give her something worthwhile to work on, and an excuse for you to hang out and check on her more often.

(And yeah, get her a cost-effective therapist, IANAinsuranceclaimslawyer, etc.)
posted by cosmologinaut at 8:20 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

She might try applying to Modest Needs to get help with the bill. Random unexpected expenses are what they do best.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:46 PM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

She can send in $5 a month. That will usually keep a person out of collections. (Don't try to set up payment arrangements with the hospital - they'll insist they need a certain amount each month. Just send the $5.)
posted by IndigoRain at 10:12 PM on January 20, 2012

Seconding IndigoRain. Good temporary strategy, at least, to ease the panic and guilt that might come from incessant, potentially insensitive, phone calls or letters about the bill. I did this in grad school to stay out of collections until I could figure out a way to pay various hospital bills. I'd then also follow up on the other suggestions about hospital's charitable funds, or google regional health charities.
posted by ArgyleMarionette at 5:57 AM on January 21, 2012

Thirding the $5/month. A friend of mine and her husband both have a bunch of medical bills and are doing this. It's not optimal but at least she could do this while checking out other options.
posted by fromageball at 11:39 AM on January 21, 2012

I *would* talk to the hospital, the sooner the better, to try to make some kind of payment arrangement. The earlier you deal with the bill, the more likely they will be to work with you, in my experience.

What is her insurance's reason for not paying? IMO, the fact that her life was in immediate danger should negate any "pre-authorization" policies or that sort of thing. A hospital social worker would really be able to help; much of what they do is negotiating with insurance.
posted by epj at 3:24 PM on January 21, 2012

Assuming your friend has legitimate health insurance and not something like AFLAC, if the facts are as you described there is NO reason this emergency service should not be covered by her insurance. If she is in the U.S., she can get assistance from her state's insurance commissioner. (Washington example)

She should let the hospital know she is working to resolve the insurance denial; they may well be able to assist in that effort. And they're certainly motivated to help. If her insurance never comes through, having informed & involved the hospital still puts her in a better position to work something out with them. That could be complete forgiveness of the debt if she qualifies under the hospital's charity program, or a long term payment plan if she doesn't.
posted by Snerd at 8:46 AM on January 22, 2012

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