November 23, 2010

How To Ask For A Reduced Medical Bill?

The first step to reducing your medical debt is asking your doc or hospital to reduce your bill. This takes time, chutzpah, and smarts and is worth the work.

Asking for a discounted bill can sound impossible but it’s not.  Here’s why:  The cost of medical procedures, doctor’s time, and hospital services are not set in stone. In fact, different patients are even billed different prices for the same services. Walking into a doc’s office or hospital is not like walking into McDonald’s where a Big Mac costs the same for everyone in line.  With medical care, different people get charged different rates and your rates can be negotiated.  After all, negotiating rates is exactly what insurance companies do and you can do it for yourself too!

The National Endowment for Financial Education has a great brochure ‘Avoiding and Managing Medical Debt’.  These tips on how to ask for a reduced medical bill  are based on their expert advice:

1.  Have a positive attitude. Your odds are good: 50% of people who ask for reduced costs get them, plus using these strategies give you an extra advantage.

2.  Talk to the right person, face-to-face: Don’t do it by phone or letter. Talk in-person to your doc, your doc’s or hospital’s office, business, or billing manager.

3. Honey goes farther than vinegar. Be polite. Kill’em with kindness.

4.  Be persistent. Don’t take no for an answer.  (I never do!) Many hospital staff don’t know the correct policies and will say ‘no’ when they should say ‘yes’.  Work your way up the ladder.

5.  Build your argument. Find a copy of the hospital’s free and discounted care policy.

The American Hospital Association has a Billing and Collections Practices Policy.  4,200 hospitals have signed on agreeing to: a.) assist patients who can’t pay for all or part of their care, b.) make these policies accessible and written in clear language. Visit this link, click on ‘more than 4,200′. If your hospital is on the list, present this info in defense of your request.

6.  Contact your State Attorney General. If you’re at a non-profit hospital, many state AG’s will help ensure they provide charity care.  Find your State AG here.

7.  Compare costs. Conduct research to find out what patients with insurance or Medicare are paying for your same procedure codes. Demand the same rate.

8. Offer to pay part upfront.  Billing departments need cash from patients who often can’t paying anything at all.  Bargain for a discount in exchange for paying something upfront.  Will they cut in half a $15,000 bill if you give them $800 upfront?  Maybe.

9.  Get it in writing. When they agree to your request, get it in writing!

Does haggling for reduced costs excite or intimidate you?  Have you ever done it?

For grants, financial assistance, and money saving tips download for free the first chapter of Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.  Scroll down on the right side of this page for the yellow highlighted download link.

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November 11, 2010

Getting Rid of Cancer Memories?

I cannot get rid of my cancer. But lately I’ve wanted to get rid of things that remind me of my cancer.

Prior to my diagnosis, I felt like everyday objects could hold power. A glittery ribbon on a package sent by my best friend had the ability to make me feel more powerful in the world. Coveting the ribbon, I’d set it on top of my dresser and look at it daily. But I’m not that gal anymore.  Cancer has obliterated a lot of my desire and ability to feel things on a deeper level. I’ve got enough sensations and emotions flying around in my head thanks to medically induced hyperthyroidism. In response to this overload,  I want to scale down keeping things simple.  I don’t have the energy to feel so attached to objects and sentiments.  The ribbon is now a ribbon – not a reminder. And it’s no longer on my dresser.

It’s getting colder outside. I’ve switched my summer jammies out for my winter PJ’s. I have six Calvin Klein PJ pants I bought nine years ago at Marshall’s after I was diagnosed. They were not retail therapy purchases, but rather my new uniform. I’ve racked up thousands of hours in bed and on my couch in these clothes. The fabric is thinning. The legs have grown. I’m a total miser and know I could get another season out of them. But do I want to go to bed every night wearing my thyroid cancer uniform?

These pants are just pants. They don’t hold any power or negative energy. But they did come from a time in my life I don’t want to remember so much anymore. It would be better for the environment if I got a tenth and last season out of them. But I think it would be better for me if I didn’t. I’m heading to Marshall’s tomorrow for new PJs. While I’d like this to be a casual shopping trip, there might be some ceremonial undertones and maybe a lump in my throat. That is, a lump in addition to the two tumors nesting in my neck.

Do certain objects remind you of cancer? Do you covet them or want to trash them?

Read more about coping with the before’s and after’s of life with cancer. Check out Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

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