Other Tips on Paying the Medical Bills

There are also private funds and foundations that can help you pay for specific expenses. Detective work and networking may be needed to identify resources in your community. Contact the Brain Association of New Hampshire for a copy of the Resource Directory or download it at from their website http://www.bianh.org/directory.htm.

Your local library should have access to "The Foundation Directory". Ask your librarian for assistance in researching foundations that may be able to help you.

TIP: Read your child's diagnosis carefully.

If you are turned down for services that you think your child should qualify for, talk with your child's doctor about how the diagnosis may affect eligibility. Some insurers or programs look for specific labels or words that match eligibility criteria. Other parents may have valuable advice on the importance of phrasing requests.

TIP: Find someone who is willing to help.

Ask for care coordination. Develop a relationship with one person in the insurance company to work with consistently. Help that person become familiar with your child's needs and your family's situation. Remember to keep records of your conversations. For additional help in getting appropriate services for your child, contact the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire and ask about the Resource Facilitation Program http://www.bianh.org/facilitation.htm.

TIP: If denied a payment, ask why and get the explanation in writing.

Keep good records so you are always ready to resubmit your claim. Be helpful by providing information to support your claim.

TIP: Influence the decision-making process.

Learn who the decision makers are. Every company and agency has a chain of command. Be persistent: "No" may mean you haven't asked the right person or the right question.

TIP: Learn to navigate the appeals process.

If payment or request for service is denied, find out who is in charge of the appeals process. Ask for a copy of the appeals procedure and the forms needed to file an appeal. Send written documentation to the insurer to support your appeal. Ask your doctor, therapist, or special educator to explain in writing why the service or treatment is medically necessary for your child. Explain to the insurer any cost savings of the action requested. Don't get discouraged if the appeals process takes a long time. Stick with it—many families receive approvals after several rounds of appeals.

TIP: Know when to escalate or turn up the pressure.

When cooperation fails and you've tried all alternatives, don't give up, but choose your battles carefully. Seek legal help. There are groups in every state that offer free or low-cost legal services to families who meet eligibility requirements. Contact your legislator or the New Hampshire Insurance Department at http://www.nh.gov/insurance/. Use the press to tell your story. Remember advocacy and fighting are different—and will get different reactions and results.

TIP: Understand the collections process.

Ask for help to set up a payment plan. You must be allowed to negotiate a schedule for payment, but do it in writing. Collection agencies may talk only to the person responsible for payment of the bill. They are not allowed to call you at work, talk to your employer or other employees about your bill. Ask if they are registered in your state. If not, they are not allowed to call you. Contact the New Hampshire Attorney General's office at http://www.doj.nh.gov or the Office of Consumer Affairs at http://doj.nh.gov/consumer/index.html if you have a question or complaint about a collection agency.

TIP: Seek alternative sources.

Identify special funds through hospitals, foundations, or private sources. Use tax savings, such as deductions, for out-of-pocket medical expenses and health care reimbursement accounts. Check with disability-related organizations, such as United Cerebral Palsy, and local civic and religious groups, such as the Lions Club, Police Benevolent Association, and Knights of Columbus. Remember to say "thank you", both personally and publicly, to reinforce their generosity and increase public awareness.

Summary

Getting the bills paid will test your knowledge, skills, and patience. As a parent, you know your child's needs and are the best advocate to make sure your child gets what is needed. It will be up to you to find a way to pay for your child's services.

There is more to your family's financial future than paying today's bills. As you start thinking about your child's future needs, it is important to develop a financial plan. For information on long-term financial planning for your child and family, see "Looking Ahead: Financial Strategies for Your Family."