Get help with medical bills and expenses

Have medical expenses you can't afford to pay? You are not alone. Maryland and national organizations may be able to help cover some of your medical costs, mediate billing disputes or denials, or provide free medical equipment.

Financial help

Talk to your healthcare provider about financial assistance programs first. Many hospitals have patient programs to help lower medical bills. Ask about the provider's financial aid guidelines to learn more about the details and eligibility requirements for care.

For example, the University of Maryland Medical Center can help patients get free or lower-cost services if they can't pay or can only partially pay for their hospital care.

The hospital will consider your ability to pay for care, including household income and family size.

The hospital may also be able to help you apply for health insurance through Medicaid Maryland Health Connection.

Prescription drugs can be expensive in addition to medical bills. If your doctor prescribes a medication you can't afford, there are which prescription drug programs can help at participating Maryland pharmacies.

You can also search the 211 resource database for programs and local organizations that can help.

Elderly couple looks anxiously at medication paperwork

Mediation of a medical dispute

If you are unable to resolve your medical bill with your provider or have another medical issue, the Maryland Attorney General's Health Education and Advocacy Unit (HEAU) may be able to mediate, free of charge. You can help with:

  • Billing disputes with physicians
  • Surprise medical bill from an out-of-network urgent care facility or a provider at an in-network hospital or surgery center
  • Received a bill that is higher than a good faith estimate
  • Billed by a Maryland hospital for an outpatient facility fee, but not told about the fee before the doctor's appointment
  • Medical equipment disputes
  • Inability to obtain medical records or copies of them
  • Denial of private health insurance coverage for all or part of your care
  • Navigating a hospital's financial assistance program
  • Denied financial assistance or reasonable payment options from a Maryland hospital
  • Ending private health insurance
  • Denial of enrollment in a qualified health plan or denial of Advanced Premium Tax Credits or cost-sharing reductions through Maryland Health Connection

Financial assistance for chronic and rare diseases

If you are facing ongoing medical expenses due to a chronic or rare condition, you can apply for assistance through your provider and also contact national nonprofit organizations that can help you.

PAN Foundation helps government and commercially insured patients get the medications and care they need for life-threatening, chronic and rare diseases. The organization helps with prescription drug costs as well as treatments.

Since 2004, they have provided $4 billion in financial assistance to more than one million underinsured patients.

The HealthWell Foundation can also help eligible individuals with copayments, premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses for surgeries, supplements and supplies. The organization has a number of disease funds that assist people with certain conditions.

CancerCare also provides financial assistance and partners with organizations across the country that can help with cancer treatment costs. Financial programs vary by the type of cancer you have and by region. The co-pay assistance program covers certain cancer diagnoses.

You can also ask your provider if they have a financial assistance policy to cover ongoing care costs.

Free medical equipment

Durable medical equipment can be expensive if you have to buy it. If you only need it for a short time, it may not be worth it to buy it, or you may not be able to afford the cost if your insurer won't cover it.

If medical equipment is needed long term, Medicare, Medicaid and your insurer should help cover the cost.

If that is not the case, you can obtain used and refurbished medical equipment through the Maryland Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Reuse Program. It is run by the Department of Aging, but is available to anyone in Maryland, regardless of age.

The Maryland Department of Aging discussed how this program works Episode 16 of What is the 211? Podcast.

The agency said it uses occupational and physical therapists to properly match the equipment to an individual. Ensure that the size is appropriate for an individual based on his or her needs, height, weight and other factors. This contributes to safety.

Once the Department of Aging receives a donation, equipment is disinfected, repaired, and redistributed. Find locations and request forms for equipment.