Author Question: Paying Medical Bills

Carrie S. Asks:

My character’s ended up in hospital a second time! This time it’s not against his will, but the question I have is about paying for his treatment. He’s just received treatment for a broken arm, and now he needs to leave. I understand that the hospital would treat him regardless of whether he could pay, but I assume they would also do their best to make sure they were paid if possible.

The situation is this: My character does not have insurance, but he can pay, thanks to a friend. However, he doesn’t have any means of payment right now. Nor does he have an address, bank account, or any way for the hospital to make sure he pays up. What would happen? Would they just let him go and hope he was honest enough to come back with the cash?
The hospital in question is non-profit, if that makes a difference.
Jordyn Says:

Wow! Your character is definitely running into some bad luck. 

The hospital would discharge him and hope he pays at some point. If seen in the ED, they may request a copay at the end of his visit (you can’t ask for copays until the patient has been seen) but if he doesn’t have the money there’s not much that can be done at that point. We don’t hold people hostage for payment–particularly the nursing staff. It will be the billing department that ultimately follows up.
It really does not make a difference if the hospital is for profit or non profit. Each requires money to keep their doors open. Most hospitals do try to work with individuals and set up payment plans for services rendered.

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