My unemployed son has health insurance. So why does the hospital want so much money?

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Dear Insurance Adviser,
My son ended up in the emergency room because of chest pains and shortness of breath. His out-of-pocket bills came to $3,000. He called the hospital here in Florida to see about negotiating the price and to make payments. He had been out of work for six months and has only a temp job now. The hospital wouldn’t even talk about negotiating — they said they don’t do that, and only six months is given to make payments. What should our next step be? He is an adult but doesn’t have the luxury of taking time off from work because he is worried about losing his job. He did the right thing by having insurance, but his cost is unaffordable. Thank you.
— Maureen

Dear Maureen,
Health plans with affordable monthly costs often have higher deductibles and copays. Plans with more expensive premiums tend to have minimal deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.

You say your son lost his job six months ago. Is it possible that he elected to continue with his former employer’s group health insurance under the COBRA law? If so, he had a much less expensive alternative available to him if he applied within 60 days of losing his job. He could have qualified for an affordable health care policy under the Obama health care law, the Affordable Care Act. He would have been able to apply within 60 days of losing his job.

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He may even have qualified for Medicaid, if your state has expanded that program. Its coverage has a very low monthly cost and minimal deductibles and copayments.

The Affordable Care Act has an open enrollment period coming this fall, for plans that take effect Jan. 1, 2016. I recommend that he applies.

Good luck.

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