You CAN and SHOULD Negotiate Your Medical Bills

iStock_000018853771SmallIf you’ve received a medical bill recently, then what I’m about to say likely won’t come as a surprise: in the United States, we spend A LOT on healthcare. In fact, we spend more than twice as much per capita on healthcare than the average developed country does, at an average of $8,508 per person per year. (FYI: That adds up to $2.8 trillion total, or a staggering 18% of GDP.)

Actually paying those bills? That’s another story. It’s not a pretty picture: 1 in 5 Americans is contacted by bill collectors about medical debt. Medical debt accounts for $1 out of every $3 owed in collection accounts, far more than all other debt in collections.

The good news is that you can negotiate. Yes—you can negotiate your medical bills before your credit is put on its deathbed. Many hospitals, doctors and insurance providers are willing to negotiate for a reduced fee or payment plan; after all, they’d rather get something from you than nothing. Here’s how:

    1. Get itemized statements. Billing errors are common, and you shouldn’t have to pay for a service, device or drug that you didn’t use during your visit. Also, if hospitalization lead to infection, you need to dispute any charges made for services needed to remedy the infection.
    2. Know the costs. How can you expect to negotiate your bills if you don’t know how much this stuff costs?? Just like there is Kelley Blue Book for your car, there is Healthcare Blue Book or FAIR Health for researching medical treatments and medication.
    3. Don’t procrastinate. If you need to dispute a bill, don’t bury your head in the sand. You have about 90 days to act, so the sooner the better. Once a bill goes to collections it’s difficult to get the provider or hospital to help you, and your credit is already damaged.
    4. Consider payment options. If you can pay for the full amount of the bill in cash and in a timely manner, ask for that. You can also suggest a “package plan” in advance where you bundle all related services for a discount (say, for a surgery, bundling pre- and post-operation treatments into one lump sum). Ask for a “charity rate,” if that’s available, or ask to see the list of charities that most hospitals have that can help.
    5. Get help. If you don’t have time to dispute the charge (or maybe you’ve tried and been unsuccessful) there are advocacy groups that can help. Check out Benefits.gov for grants, loans, and other aid options that might be available to you. It’s your credit on the line; enlist all the help you can to protect it.

At the end of the day, remember that it’s your money, and you need to fight for it! Yes, your health is invaluable, but medical services do have a price tag—and it’s often far less than the one on your bill.

Test your medical knowledge along with me and Dr. Oz with our recent segment on “Good Day LA!”

 

2017-01-23T08:55:08+00:00Health|

One Comment

  1. David J Holt June 27, 2015 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Great article! Here are a few other tips I have from working down in the trenches as a healthcare attorney:

    Price-shop your health insurance and your treatments BEFORE you go in for healthcare. There is a free healthcare blue book (healthcarebluebook.com) just like the automotive blue book for buying cars. Make use of this to determine what prices are reasonable for your location and type of care. Healthcare is a commodity after all. You already shop for electronics, houses, cars, and food – make sure you are doing the same for your healthcare!

    For negotiations, state that you are willing to pay something, but unable to pay the full amount. These words trigger the healthcare provider to work with you to figure out an arrangement. There are often financial assistance programs available, but you have to prod and dig to find them. Do not be afraid to make a discounted offer to close the account. I recommend an offer around 60% of the original medical bill. I choose this number because when your medical bill goes to collections, the healthcare provider has to pay the collection company 20-30% of the amount collected. Also, you will have better success if you are able to pay cash up front, rather than over a period of time on a payment plan. For example, if you can offer $600 now for a $1000 bill, this would be a great offer for the healthcare provider.

    Hold strong here and good luck!

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