Patient financial assistance
Every hospital in Vermont has a patient financial assistance program. If you have hospital bills that you can’t pay, call the hospital to ask about applying for financial assistance.
It is important to contact your hospital as soon as possible because there is a time limit to apply. Patient financial assistance could discount your bill from 50% to 100%.
You can find financial assistance applications for Vermont hospitals online. Go to the Vermont Department of Health website, scroll down, and click on “Hospital Discount and Free Policy Information.” Click on the name of the hospital that you owe money. You can also call the hospital and ask them to send you an application.
Patient financial assistance requirements for hospitals
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires not-for-profit hospitals to have financial assistance policies. Here is a summary of what information a not-for-profit hospital must give you.
If your bill is sent to collections
If you don’t pay your bill, your doctor, dentist or hospital can send the bill to a collection agency. When this happens, the collection agency will try to get you to pay the bill. The collection agency will start calling you and asking you to pay the bill.
You can send the collection agency a letter telling them to stop calling you at work or to stop calling you altogether.
If you send one of these letters, the collection agency should stop calling you. But, they could still take legal action against you, such as:
- send you letters
- file a lawsuit against you
- sell the account to another collection agency, or
- take other legal action
If you send a letter to the collection agency, the company you originally owed the money to can still call you.
Impact on your credit
The debt will continue to be reported to three credit reporting agencies. This may make it difficult for you to get credit cards or loans for a car or a home.
In 2022, the three nationwide credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — agreed to three changes to reporting medical collection accounts.
- If you have paid off your medical collection debt, it will no longer be included on your credit reports. That goes into effect on July 1, 2022.
- The time period before unpaid medical collection debt will appear on your report will be increased to one year. That goes into effect on July 1, 2022. This gives you more time to work with insurance and/or healthcare providers to address medical debt before it appears on your credit reports.
- Medical debt collection accounts under $500 will no longer be included on your credit reports. This goes into effect the first half of 2023.
For more information on your rights, and what debt collectors can and can’t do, visit our Debt Collection page. You can also contact us. Fill out our form and we will call you back. Your information will be sent to Legal Services Vermont, which screens requests for help for both Vermont Legal Aid and Legal Services Vermont.