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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Comment(s)

  1. laurie edwards Says:
    June 1st, 2009 at 9:56 AM

    Great post! Very practical tips. I can’t tell you how many times people just tell me “no” or tell me otherwise incorrect info because they don’t know or, more commonly, they aren’t willing to look. So frustrating!

    My husband has a lot of customer experience behind him and he always tells that when you have to do stuff over the phone, always get the first and last name of everyone you speak to and mark the date and time. If they refuse to give you their names, that’s a red flag!


  2. Aftercancer Says:
    June 1st, 2009 at 4:26 PM

    Great tips. Here’s one more, read your bills and if you have insurance learn how to read your explanation of benefits (EOB’s). I had a while bunch of things denied payment because someone at the insurance company typed the wrong letter and I wound up with a sex change.


  3. Linda Says:
    June 5th, 2009 at 3:25 PM

    I am an administrator for an academic Neurology Practice. We have 8 physicians and bill many patients visits per day……between the hospital services and the private office. My point being that when patients call me to discuss their bills I am much more apt to strike a deal….it is when they ignore all their statements that I get annoyed…I have been there done that with my own family over the years and I know that when a call is made to the right person you can get a great deal accomplished…..it is the right thing to do. It is ignoring the bills that I resent…


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