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Free Union Plus service helps union member cut medical bills

Posted on January 4, 2013
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Angela Neal, a member of the Kansas Organization of State Employees (KOSE), AFT/AFSCME Local 300, had little trouble negotiating a fair price for a car and other kinds of consumer bargaining didn’t bother her either. But when the social worker tried to lower her medical bill debt the going got rough. 

Fortunately, as a union member, Neal had Union Plus in her corner. In addition to a variety of consumer discounts, Union Plus offers assistance to union families when facing critical financial hardships as job loss, high health care costs and distress from natural disasters.

In Neal’s case, Union Plus offered her just what she needed: an advocate to help her negotiate lower medical bills. 
   
“Trying to lower the debt from medical expenses is so hard,” explains Neal. “Some of the bill people can be harsh. They want to get every penny from you as soon as possible, but you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip. Union Plus’ medical bill negotiator helped knock off as much as 50 percent off of some of my medical bills.”

Reducing medical debt can be daunting. Neal remembers how every time she saw the medical bills piled on her kitchen table, she was filled with dread, knowing that she alone was responsible for the balances and that those balances were not going to be reduced without a lot of effort. 

Armed with her cell phone, a positive attitude and the stack of bills, Neal diligently contacted the billing offices of her physician and labs asking for their help in lowering her debt and coming up with a manageable payment schedule. She hung up each time feeling discouraged and overwhelmed.

Dealing with the stress of mounting bills, coping with an ongoing health condition, and working full-time to provide critical social services to families in need was a lot for Neal to handle. She isn’t alone. A report by the Commonwealth Fund found that 41 percent of Americans of working age have medical bill problems or are paying off medical debt. 

Neal found hope when a co-worker encouraged her to check out the Union Plus Medical Bill Negotiating Service. When she clicked on UnionPlus.org/BillNegotiator, Neal was thrilled to see that it was easy to sign up for the free service. To qualify for help, she only needed to be an active or retired union member with at least one outstanding unreimbursed medical expense of at least $400.

“It was nice knowing that someone was working for me just because I am a union member. I didn’t realize this union benefit existed, but I’m so glad it does. It put me in a much better position to pay off my medical bills,” says Neal, who has been a member of KOSE Local 300 since 2010.

“It’s a big help when someone is there to help you negotiate medical debt. It was a real blessing,” says Neal.
 

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