Most people dread medical debt even more than they fear the potential incidents that can lead to this crippling yoke. It is this very fear that leads people to pay through the nose for health insurance and demand healthcare benefits as a condition of taking a job. Whether you’re injured in an accident, you suffer a serious illness, or you go through labor and delivery in a hospital setting, chances are good you’re going to wind up with hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. If you’re lucky, you have good insurance in place to cover the lion’s share of your expenses. But even with coverage, you’ll still have to pay a portion. And for those that don’t have a healthcare policy in place, the bills for medical care could be astronomical. Still, all hope is not lost. It turns out that many healthcare providers are willing to negotiate a bill if it means you’re going to pay instead of declaring bankruptcy. After all, they’re better off getting some money than none. So here are just a few tips to help you reduce hospital bills and/or medical debt.
- Ask for discounts ahead of time. If you wait until your treatments are complete to ask for a discount, you may be able to negotiate a lower price. In fact, many healthcare providers are willing to reduce the amount you owe by anywhere from 20-50% depending on the treatment you received, where you were treated (hospital, ER, private practice, etc.), and whether or not you have insurance to help you pay for a portion of the bill already. However, you may fare better if you negotiate your rate ahead of time. Talk to your healthcare provider about options for treatment, discuss the pricing for each option, and when you’ve settled on a treatment plan, negotiate for a lower price right off the bat. At least you’ll know what you owe going in.
- Consider paying cash. It is said that cash is king, and often you can get a steep discount if you’re able to pay up front and in cash. This works particularly well with visits to a private doctor’s office (as opposed to the hospital setting). If you let the office know that you don’t have insurance and ask about discounts for paying cash at the time of your visit, you may be able to reduce your bill by as much as half, or even more in some cases.
- See about a payment plan. Rather than paying medical expenses with credit cards and then paying a lot more in interest charges, you may be able to save some money by setting up a payment plan. Your healthcare provider no doubt realizes that medical expenses are often unexpected, and that most people don’t have a ton of cash lying around for such occasions. So even if your service provider is unable to lower the bill significantly, a payment plan is almost always an option.
- Ask nicely. The worst thing you can do is plague some overworked nurse or administrator with an embellished sob story or make rude demands for discounts. When you present an honest account of your financial hardship, politely request a reduction and/or payment plan, and express appreciation for the help you’re receiving, you have a much better chance of lowering your bill.
- Use a negotiation service. If you happen to know someone who works in the billing and coding industry, then you’re probably aware that insurance providers constantly negotiate for reduced medical bills. Unfortunately, you don’t have the same resources or knowledge they do. But you could hire a specialist to help you out here. There are actually services out there that will negotiate your medical bills for you. And although you have to pay for them, a significant reduction in your medical expenses will make hiring the pros worth every penny.