On May 25, NPR published a story entitled “WhyYour Health Insurer Doesn’t Care About Your Big Bills.” Basically, this is about a patient who worked in the insurance industry, so understood all the lingo, and was horrified that he was being charged for services he hadn’t received, and way overcharged for other procedures. Not only didn’t his insurance care about the costs but the hospital sued him as he was responsible for a 10% deductible.
I posted this story to my Facebook page and have been amazed at the number of people who have commented about having similar issues. Since even with the best coverage, many people are responsible for paying deductibles, it’s in our best interest to review medical bills and “haggle.”
Consider the following
• Before you have a procedure, surgery etc.
- Find out what the real cost is, so you have a reasonable number to use when starting a discussion. Check your insurance carrier’s website. Use sites such as Healthcare Blue Book, and New Choice Health to get a better understanding of costs.
- Visit the billing person or the manager of patient accounts at the doctor’s office or hospital. You can ask if they would consider adjusting the price to make it more affordable for you. Some providers will charge less if you pay immediately.
- Inquire about outpatient surgery center versus inpatient surgery
• If you’ve already had the procedure or emergent care etc.
- Check your medical bill for errors. You have a right to ask for an itemized statement and audit it for unnecessary charges such as double billing and unexpected hospital fees. To learn more how medical billing works, plus how to interpret your bill, check out Understanding Medical Bills.
- Negotiate Afterward: Ask for a discount. Hospitals will consider this as getting something is better than nothing. “Go up the chain of command, calling the billing manager or the vice president of finance and so on, building a relationship with each person by telling your story. Make sure you write down every person’s name, title, and contact information; the date and time you called; what you asked; and what each person said. If you reach an agreement, get it in writing.
- Don’t pay by credit card if you are looking for a discount as it puts you in a weaker bargaining position.
- Inquire about a payment plan
- If you aren’t getting anywhere, call in a pro. Sometimes condition specific health organizations can direct you to someone who can help advocate for you. Depending on where you live, senior health groups can provide a patient or medical billing advocate.