How to lower an unexpected hospital bill

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Imagine opening up your mail to find a bill for $37, 000. Yikes! That was the sticker shock for a metro man who was recently injured in a motorcycle accident.

Brad Davis had a motorcycle accident and was taken by ambulance to an area hospital. Unfortunately, he does not have medical insurance.

It's a problem some healthcare advocates say is very common. But you can get help dealing with bills like Brad's.

Brad, talking about the bill, said, "We about fell out of our seats."

The accident was just over two weeks ago. Brad was riding his motorcycle on the highway. He was exiting from I-240 to I-35 South.

"People don't yield and that's what happened to me," said Brad. "The bike just came out from under me, slid about 5-feet and face planted me into the ground. That's all I remember for the next few hours."

He was taken by ambulance to the ER. He says he was given 10 stitches, a tetanus shot and two CT scans.

His bill shows those procedures plus a fee for a special team of doctors. His total was more than $37,000.

The problem is Brad is uninsured.

Kevin Flynn, with HealthCare Advocates, says, "Don't be intimidated by the process."

Flynn says there are options for the uninsured.

He says first find out if you are eligible for help through Medicare.

From there, ask the hospital about a "Charity Care" write off.

Next, he says audit your bill. Doing so may require help from a hospital billing agent or a healthcare advocate.

Lastly, negotiate payment and a payment plan.

Flynn said, "The providers will often work with you because they know that if they don't work with you they aren't going to get paid at all, so they know it's in their best interest."

The good news is the hospital has offered to write off nearly $34,000 of his bill. He will now owe about $3,300.

Brad said, "We're really thankful for that because we don't have insurance."

Brad does have auto insurance, which will cover the cost of his ambulance ride and about $700 of the medical bill.

He says he does not have health insurance because the cost is out of reach for his family.

Brad says he has looked in to getting coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

Brad said, "At our age and our income the best we could do was $350 a month with a $12,000 deductible."

He also believes the intersection where the accident happened is partially to blame. Brad says there was a roll over accident in the same location the day before his accident.

If you need help auditing or negotiating a bill there are advocates who can help; however, be careful who you choose because some companies do charge hefty fees for their service.