Many people don’t realize that doctors are willing to negotiate costs with patients who don’t have healthcare coverage. Consumers can also use the strategies below if they have outstanding medical debts, or are planning to have a medical procedure, but they know that specific procedure won’t be covered by insurance. Follow the following five steps to lower your medical bills:
1. Ask the right person for a discount. This is almost always the doctor herself. Not the office manager or the secretary at the front desk who might schedule your next appointment. Instead, let your doctor know if you’re uninsured or if your healthcare company won’t cover certain procedures. Say: “Doctor, I really want to have this procedure done, but I’m afraid that I won’t be able to afford it, since my insurer won’t cover the cost. Can you work with me on my bill so I can get the care that I need?”
2. Be flexible and open-minded. Don’t make it seem like you’re just trying to weasel out of paying. Let the doctor know that you understand her situation too. She’s working hard and deserves to be fairly compensated. So indicate flexibility and a willingness to work out a reasonable deal. For example, if a doctor can’t offer you a significant price break ask: “At the very least, can I establish a payment plan with your office to pay this bill over one year or some agreed-upon time frame?”
3. Arm yourself with information. Before having any kind of check-up, exam, surgery or medical procedure, you should know the going rates for such services. Hospitals often will slash your bill from full-price to what they charge Medicare, since that’s seen as a benchmark for costs. Look up Medicare reimbursement rates on the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services web site at: http://www.cms.hhs.gov. With this knowledge, you can ask for a significant price reduction. The same thing applies to old medical bills that are past due. The reason: Insurance companies typically pay out only one-third to one-half of what they’re billed by doctors, hospitals and clinics. Why should you pay more than insurers pay?
4. Use cash as leverage. Assume a doctor normally bills $150 for a routine physical, it would not be unreasonable to say: “I believe your insurance rate for physicals is $150. Is it possible for me to pay $75 if I pay in cash today?” You may not get a whopping 50% off your doctor’s bills. But even a 25% to 30% discount would be a welcome price break.
5. Hire a Medical Advocate
If your own efforts at getting a hospital or healthcare provider to reduce a medical bill prove unsuccessful, (perhaps because the hospital is demanding a lump sum payment), a qualified medical advocacy agency will likely be able to convince the hospital to accept a payment plan. For help, contact: Medical Billing Advocates of America (www.billadvocates.com), which has specialists all across the country to help patients deal with health-related bills.
Medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in America. Don’t let unpaid medical debt – large or small – hurt your finances and jeopardize your credit rating. Take action today to knock out those medical bills and restore yourself to financial health.
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