The TikTok That Saved Me Hundreds of Dollars in Medical Bills
May 5, 2022
Sometimes, I learn things from TikTok. And now you can, too!
Something I learned in 2020 is that medical bills are expensive. Even with insurance, for a simple medical procedure or office visit, you can sometimes be left with several hundred dollars worth of medical bills. If you live in America, you know that our healthcare system is convoluted and a mess to try and figure out. I would know — I found out first-hand last year when I went to physical therapy two times and ended up with $300+ in medical bills (it still makes me cringe.)
Before we dive into how a TikTok helped me write off the bulk of that $300 bill, I want to explain what happened. I have had some frustrating medical symptoms the past year that have popped up seemingly out of nowhere. I ended up going to the doctor to get an ECG for chest pain and wound up being referred to physical therapy at an outpatient physical therapy office (outpatient, not at a hospital — take note of this, it is important later on.) I went to two appointments, paid my $30 copay (I was on my parent’s amazing insurance at the time — bless them for letting me stay on for so long), and went on my merry way. Only to find an e-bill in my inbox weeks later for way more than I was supposed to have paid.
I was utterly confused. I called my insurance — they told me to call my physical therapist’s office. I called my physical therapist’s office — they told me to call the hospital system’s billing. I called the hospital system’s billing office (even though I never went to the hospital) — they told me that I need to file a request for review. I filed a request for review — they didn’t get back to me until after my first payment was due, so I paid it (something I’d regret doing later, but I didn’t want a missed payment to show up on my credit report down the line.)
To reiterate what I said earlier, it was a convoluted mess. I was being billed in a way that was, while technically not breaking any rules, misleading. I was never told that billing would be done through the hospital system and treated like a visit to the hospital. Because it was billed that way, my insurance wouldn’t cover it like a typical physical therapy visit. Again — a convoluted mess.
I like to scroll endlessly through TikTok, laughing one minute, crying the next, and one day not long after crying on the phone to my insurance (yes, that happened), I was using the app to get my mind off of an unexpected money drain that I couldn’t get rid of. Soon, I ran across a TikTok from Dollar For — a nonprofit that specifically helps people lower (or get rid of) their medical bills. I’m not being dramatic when I say that this TikTok changed my life, and I think it could change yours too…
The TikTok itself is a Stitch (a mashup with another TikTok) where a girl comes on screen and says “What’s a piece of information that you learned that feels illegal to know?” followed by someone from Dollar For coming onto the screen explaining how most hospital systems in the US are non-profits, which means they almost all have a financial assistance program for patients that fall into a certain income bracket. See the TikTok below:
If you’re like me, you might be thinking “well, that doesn’t apply to me because I’m usually over financial assistance income limits,” and, of course, that could be true. But I didn’t let that stop me from researching my own hospital system’s financial aid program, and I was so glad I did because it turns out I qualified.
I went to my hospital system’s website and found their billing & pricing page. It was a little bit hidden — at the very bottom of the homepage — but I clicked on it, then clicked on “Financial Assistance.” My hospital system has two different income brackets to qualify: if your family’s annual income is up to 250% of the federal poverty guidelines, you might qualify for free care; if your family’s annual income is between 251% and 400% of the federal poverty guidelines, you might qualify for discounted care. The application for assistance was all done online — I clicked through to complete it in my doctor’s healthcare app — and took all of half an hour (the longest part was finding proof of income, which I had to log into my employer’s payroll system to do.)
After submitting the application, my bill was immediately suspended, meaning my monthly payments weren’t required until my financial assistance application finished the review process. And then, sure enough, my bill was zeroed out entirely a few weeks later, and I haven’t had to pay a cent since (other than what I had already paid — who knows if that would have been wiped out or not since I didn’t qualify for completely free care.)
Everyone should know this
My takeaway from this entire debacle: everyone needs to know this! Thank goodness for organizations like Dollar For who get the word out there about such life-changing information. I’m one of the lucky ones who could have ultimately afforded to pay my bill with an extended payment plan (even if it was a big pain), but there are some people out there avoiding medical care because they think they can’t afford it. If only everyone knew that financial assistance programs like this exist at nearly every hospital in the United States! I’m so glad I got on TikTok one random day earlier this year and scrolled across such helpful information that ended up saving me hundreds of dollars.
Not everyone who is here on this platform is on TikTok, and vice versa, so I wanted to cover this on Medium: the TikTok that saved me hundreds of dollars in medical bills. If you owe money to your local hospital for any medical services, even if they were years ago, run, don’t walk, to their website and take a look at their financial assistance policy. It might be more generous than you think and you could actually qualify. You’re welcome.