Do you need help paying a hospital bill?
California's Hospital Fair Pricing Act limits the amount hospitals can charge self-pay (e.g., uninsured and underinsured) patients, and limits their ability to send such patients to collections.
California's AB 1503 limits the amount emergency room physicians (including surgeons and anesthesiologists) can charge self-pay (e.g., uninsured and underinsured) patients, and limits their ability to send such patients to collections.
If you are uninsured or underinsured, you may be legally entitled to a large Fair Price discount on your bill, even if you are middle income or own your own home. Depending on your income the hospital may even cover your entire bill. Click here to learn about Fair Price discounts and free care.
If your income is low, you may be able to get Medi-Cal or a county health program to pay your hospital bill in full. Click here for more information on these options. Some assets may be allowed in certain circumstances (e.g., if the patient is a minor child) so don't assume you are not eligible.
If you have health insurance and believe your insurance should pay the bill, click here to learn how to pursue payment from your insurer.
If your bill has already been sent to a collection agency, click here to learn how to get collections activity stopped until you have an opportunity to apply for a Fair Price discount.
If you do not qualify for help, you can still negotiate with the hospital to lower your bill. Many hospital bills have both billing errors and items that are priced far higher than their true cost, and most hospitals offer discounts of 30-50% to people who pay cash. It is up to you to decide how much time and money you want to spend to disagree with the charges, and how much of a cash settlement you can afford. The Health Consumer Alliance has a useful factsheet on Reading and Negotiating Medical Bills.
If you need personal assistance, try contacting:
- Your local Health Consumer Center
- John Metz, Just Health Now
- Further resources are available on the Healthcare Information Division section of the website of the Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development (OSHPD)
If none of these options help, you may want to consider credit counseling and/or bankruptcy.