According to a recent study, about 64 percent of Americans want to lower their medical bills, and rightly so too because medical bills can quickly add up over time depending on how severe an ailment is and how often you go to the hospital. Research has also shown that avoiding the doctor when sick or in dire need of medication to keep costs down is a tactic that is often used by 56 percent of people who do not have medical insurance and also by 27 percent of Millennials who tend to be the category that fall under recent college grads and graduates who are just entering the work force. If a patient is not getting their prescription filled because of the expenses involved, then they need to have an honest conversation with their doctor. Avoiding the doctor’s office altogether can lead to serious gaps in preventive care and also result in costlier medical expenses down the road. I remember a few years ago when my cousin was in and out of the hospital. This caused her family a lot financially, especially because the doctors couldn’t immediately detect what was wrong with her. Things like these happen every day, and medical costs are not cheap for the average person, so what are some tricks that could help you save some money?
Once you visit the doctor, and they prescribe a specific procedure or medication for you, it is up to you to do the necessary research that you need to compare costs and make sure that you are getting the right quality and return for your money. An ACL surgery for example can cost as much as $17,000 dollars so it might be worth it to get the right information on the quality of service that you can get and the amount of money that is involved. It is definitely worth your while to shop around for the type of medical attention that you are getting.
Know In-Network vs Out-Network
In-network versus out-of-network discussion is a big driver for cost, but it is also sometimes not that easy to know if a primary health care provider, lab or physician is in or out-of-network, especially if you are in an emergency and multi-layered procedures are required. This goes back to my last point that talks about research. If you have the ability to do the necessary research and ensure that the healthcare providers that you are speaking to are in-network, it will make a big difference, but if you are not able to do that, when you get the bill, make sure that you cross check to make sure procedures and processes listed on the bill are something you actually received. If the charges that you are receiving are out-of-network, then there is the chance that you will be able to get a discount from the provider, but you need to present a case that is viable. Companies such as CoPatient and other healthcare advocates are usually helpful because they do a great deal in helping patients to sort out the necessary paperwork since they work with payers and providers.
Know the Right Words to Use
Before you’ve completely committed to the procedure, visit the billing person in the doctor’s office or the manager of patient accounts at the hospital. Depending on the hospital, you can attempt to negotiate a discount before receiving treatment. Once you get there, be be clear and confident by saying something like: “These bills are extremely expensive. Would you consider adjusting the price so that the bill can be more affordable?” or depending on your insurance situation, you can say: “My insurance isn’t covering this treatment, so I’m paying for my own care and would like to see if you can lower the price.” Making things personal may also help. If you have chosen a particular hospital or doctor because you’ve heard great recommendations from friends, mention that. If you’ve recently been laid off, say so. Adding that personal touch to it also attracts empathy and because of that human connection, the billing staff may be willing to cut you some slack.
Larry Gelb, who is a CEO of a health care advocacy firm CareCounsel, recommends that depending on if you are able to, offering to pay immediately in exchange for a discount. At the doctor’s office, you could start by saying: “I’m going to pay out-of-pocket this year. Would you consider seeing me for the same amount you received in past years from my health plan? I’ll pay you up front in cash.” If the office agrees to accept your former insurer’s rate, that could immediately translate into a 40 percent discount, which is really not bad at all.
In a hospital,it is also smart to ask whether you could qualify for any financial assistance programs. These assistance are usually not for only poor people. Someone who earns about $100,000 a year, but has $60,000 in medical expenses could also qualify for medical financial assistance.
Negotiate After the Fact
If you have already had the procedure and the staggering bills have begun to arrive, you can still ask for a discount. Hospital billing departments are often really eager to collect something and get the charges off their books, rather than have to deal with a lengthy collection process. You have nothing to lose by starting with an aggressive offer depending on what your situation is. For example, you could say something like this: “If I pay you 40 percent of this bill right now, would you be willing to write off the rest?” Even if your initial offer is rejected, the hospital may choose to work with a discount that is convenient for you too. In a hospital, if you are offered a 10 or 20 percent discount, press on and dont immediately think of giving up in that instance. That is not a big reduction compared with the markup they are probably charging. If that does not work for you, take it a step further by going up the chain of command, calling the billing manager or the vice president of finance and so on. As you do this, you can take the opportunity to build a relationship with each person by telling your story, and making that human connection. While you do this, make sure that you write down every person’s name, title, and contact information; the date and time you called; what you asked; and what each person said. If you reach an agreement, make sure that you get it in writing because this is very important.
Don’t Pay With a Credit Card
It may be wise to forgo the credit card if you think that you might be asking for a discount later. Depending on the situation, using a credit cared usually will put you in a weaker bargaining position with the hospital. Usually when you use a credit card, the hospital tends to lose any interest in negotiating with you once they have your money, and it could even make your bills to go higher and you could end up paying additional interest rates on the charges.
Inquire About a Payment Plan
This one is my personal favorite . Having a payment plan is very important and even give room for flexibility. If you are still facing a huge bill after negotiating a discount, ask for an interest-free payment plan. This strategy leaves you with the option to renegotiate the amount down the road, after demonstrating good faith by making timely payments. You can then write to the billing office: “I’ve been faithfully paying this bill for a year and half.”
These are little tricks here and there that you can incorporate into your life to help with medical bills.