Medical bills can get extremely high and quickly become a real strain if you are also dealing with a health problem that may prevent you from working as you would like to. Unfortunately, most medical practices and hospitals inflate rates in order to make as much profit as they possibly can. Here are a few tips you can use to negotiate a better deal, and make paying your medical expenses a little easier.
Know the Cost
Most insurance companies make rates available to their members and you can check around to see what other offices and facilities would charge for the same kind of treatment. This can give you a starting point when it comes to negotiations. If you know what it should cost, you are more likely to get the company’s compliance.
Check Your Rates
If you have the luxury of finding out about costs before you go for medical care or a procedure, then shop around. Hospitals may require an overnight stay for a procedure that could be done as an outpatient procedure somewhere else. Additionally, some specialty doctors such as dentists and optometrists may charge different rates for their services. Don’t be afraid to call and ask and get recommendations from people you know.
Don’t Take No for an Answer
Your rate is not going to go up if you call and offer to pay less than what they are charging you. Call the billing department before you start signing a personalized check, and offer to pay 40% of what you owe immediately if they will write off the rest of the charge. Don’t get discouraged if they reject that offer because they will likely counter with one you might be able to live with. Don’t accept a 10% or 20% decrease. That doesn’t put a dent in what they are likely up charging you, so aim for at least 30% off the bill. If you have to, ask for a supervisor. In fact, go as high as you possibly can and talk to the financial manager if you can get ahold of them. Make sure you write down every person’s name that you talk to and exactly what they told you.
Ask for a Payment Plan
If you are genuinely willing to pay, but can’t afford the bill as it currently is, then ask for a payment plan. Most finance offices can accommodate such a request because it will save them the hassle and cost of sending a charge to debt collections. Depending on the size of the bill and your income, you could negotiate anything from paying 10% of the bill per month to 20% per week. Make sure the payment plan is interest-free. This is not like paying off a credit card or a mortgage. You do not have to accumulate interest. Get the payment plan in writing and make sure you know the names of everyone you spoke with about it.
Apply for Assistance
Depending on your financial situation and the type of care received, you may be able to apply for federal assistance (Medicare/Medicaid) or a charity care program offered by many states and private institutions. You will likely need to show that the bill will put a large strain on your family, and that the care was truly necessary. Often, after an emergency room visit, you may be referred to speak to a financial counselor, especially if you are uninsured or underinsured. This can truly be a blessing if your bills are out of control.
Finally, don’t despair. Medical expenses can be dealt with easier than most types of debt. And remember that most hospitals and doctor’s offices are willing to work with you, if you truly want to pay. Your health is the most important thing.