One Defensive Strategy Against Surprise Medical Bills: Set Your Own Terms

Nelson Vergel

One Defensive Strategy Against Surprise Medical Bills: Set Your Own Terms

When Stacey Richter’s husband recently landed in a New Jersey emergency room, fearing a heart attack, she had an additional reason for alarm: a potential big bill from the hospital if the ER wasn’t in his insurer’s network.

So she took an unusual step. Instead of simply signing the hospital’s financial and treatment consent form, Richter first crossed out sections calling for her to pay whatever amount the hospital charged. She wrote in her own payment rate of a “maximum of two times” what the federal government would pay under Medicare, which is in the ballpark, experts said, of what hospitals might consider an acceptable rate.

“And then I signed it, took a picture of it and handed it back to them,” said Richter, co-president of the consultancy Aventria Health Group.

Advocates say such consent-form alterations could provide some protection from surprise bills, though there are several major caveats to this largely untested idea.

These bills — often called “balance bills” — happen when out-of-network providers charge more than insurers pay and patients are responsible for paying the balance. Lawmakers say they are considering ways to help, but legislation stalled in Congress late last year. And though some states have balance-bill laws in place, they don’t apply to many patients with job-based insurance."


New Member
I have been doing this for decades. It works. It's a binding legal contract. Physical therapy outfits were the worst. They'd come after clients after they failed to comply with Medicare requirements and thus never got paid. They'll hem and haw but ultimately cancel the debt. PP have been trained like monkeys to sign whatever is shoved in their face whether its a provider service agreement or a residential lease from a cockroach slum lord. Yes, cross out everything that says you agree to pay unknown future charges. Medi-Medi patients can write: "Medicaid-Medicare patient, No patient share of cost". Others can write "Maximum monthly payments not to exceed X dollars per month, no fees or interest to accrue on unpaid balance". Can also ask them to write on the bottom of your copy "This is a true copy of the agreement" and ask them to sign it.