Based in Toronto, Ontario, Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor who covers sustainable agriculture, food, sake, arts and culture.

Fighting a Medical Bill

The Problem: Being hit with medical bills that your insurer is responsible for paying.

The Solution: First, call your insurer to find out why it isn't paying. Document everything, including the date of your call, the name of the agent. Ask your health-care provider to supply the required documentation. If your insurer still doesn't pay, ask to speak to a supervisor, whom you can sometimes get to communicate directly with your provider's billing department. If the insurer and provider contradict each other, you can try to set up a three-way conference call to straighten it out.

If the matter is still unresolved, find out if your employer offers a health-advocacy program, or if your human resources department can help. If it's a hospital bill, contact the hospital's patient-services department. As a last resort, you could also hire a patient advocate from an organization such as Health Plan Navigator ($125 per hour, www.healthplannavigator.com), or, if you have a chronic or life-threatening illness, free from the Center for Patient Partnerships (law.wisc.edu/patientadvocacy/).

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