Lee Health changes how patients pay their medical bills

Lee Health now has a new option for you to pay off hefty medical bills—but it comes with a cost.

The largest hospital system in SWFL is now contracting out medical payments to “My Care Finance” stationed out of Clearwater.

If you don’t want to deal with them, you have to quickly pay your bill. Bottom line: you’ll have to shell out even more money if you can’t afford to pay off hospital bills in four months.

Those who need more time will be sent to a third party finance company that offers longer repayment plans.

Joyce Bingay says she’s already stressed enough.

“It’s something we did not expect at all. It was quite sudden,” she said.

Bingay’s 97-year-old father was admitted to Lee Memorial Hospital after a fall. She had no idea Lee Health changed how long it allows patients to pay off their bills.

Officials say they offer payment plans for patients who can pay their bills within four months. Those who can’t are sent to another company that allows patients to extend their payment plans, but only up to 36 months.

“You’re thinking that you have years to pay it, and if it’s a $20,000 or $30,000 bill…,” Bingay said.

The catch is that the other company charges for their work. So not only are you paying off your bill, but you’re also having to pay more to do so. There’s a $25 yearly fee and a $2 monthly charge.

If you don’t create a plan with My Care and don’t pay your bill off in four months, Lee Health says you, “would risk being sent to a collection agency which could negatively impact your credit score.”

Lee Health calls the finance company a “low-cost” option and says they believe this is a benefit to patients, since it won’t affect their credit score and doesn’t charge interest. When asked why the policy changed, officials did not have a specific answer, but said last year they had $214 million in unpaid patient bills.

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