Erin Lund doesn't feel that bad about paying medical bills late. The nurse from Duluth said she can't muster up the guilt when insurance costs are rising. So those health care bills go to the bottom of the pile.
"They're not the priority," Lund told MPR News.Â "Because we've already paid co-pays and insurance premiums. (O)ther expenses often times come before medical bills. They sometimes end up in collections though, and we try to pay them before that happens."
So have unpaid bills become a problem for health care institutions?
It seems so. A recent post by MPR NewsCut blogger Bob Collins gave a startling view. A spokesman for North Memorial Hospital of Robbinsdale told Collins that in 2007, the hospital had over $1 million in unpaid bills. In 2008, the number jumped to about $8 million.
The spokesman, Robert Prevost, said that people who are having financial difficulty are putting medical bills at the end of the line.
Last month, the American Hospital Association came out with a report last month that said unpaid care costs have risen by 8 percent from the third quarter 2007 to the same time period in 2008.
So I asked people in MPR's Public Insight Network if they are paying bills late -- and, if so, why. Some, like Lind, said it was that matter of priority. Marnita Schroedl of Minneapolis said she also will put the health care bills aside.
"When we do something like a mammogram or something that costs more than $100, we have to pay that off over time," Schroedl said.
But there were other reasons. A few people said the unpaid bill was the function of a battle with insurance companies over the responsibility for payment. Then there is general confusion over the amount owed and how it gets paid.
Liz Shatek of Cambridge tells the story of not having nearly enough money to pay for health costs, including those around the birth of a child. So she was counseled by her insurance provider to use a financial services provider - MedCredit - that gives loans to patients who can't afford the bill.
"Anyway, once we started questioning whether insurance had covered the appropriate amounts, we started getting caught in between the MedCredit company and the insurance company. Both would tell us we needed to talk to the other first, no one seemed able to get at the information we were asking for and I wanted to pull my hair out! I was trying to take care of a new baby in between insurance phone calls and waiting on hold for hours (our phone bill was astronomical for a few months). Eventually we just used tax money to pay off the last of the balance with MedCredit and stopped worrying about whether the insurance company had paid for what they said they would."
So what's your story? Are tight economic times pushing medical bills to the back of the stack? Are you finding that confusion with the health care provider and the insurance company are pushing you to pay for something you thought was covered by your health plan?
Give us your insights on the matter by clicking this link.