Negotiate Your Medical Costs
If you are afraid that you can’t afford your medical bills you should try to negotiate. That’s right; speak to your doctor directly or ask for the office manager or billing department. In most cases you will receive a break. It’s not unusual during these tough economic times to bargain with the medical community in order to receive a discount or, at the very least, a payment plan that you can afford. Use these tips to prepare yourself for the next doctor visit.
Be prepared: Before you go to the doctors make certain that you have an understanding of your finances and how much you can afford to pay. If you are negotiating a monthly payment plan, ask for less than you can manage; this will give you some flexibility in case finances become tighter.
Be upfront: Don’t wait to ask your doctor about a discount. He or she may discuss the venture with you or they may send you to the billing department. Either way, don’t back down; be upfront and honest about your situation.
Research prices: Go online to your insurer’s website or to private sites like healthcarebluebook.com and find out how much certain treatments, lab visits, hospital visits, tests and other procedures cost. You can then ask your doctor if there are alternative places, such as labs or test facilities that are cheaper but still reputable. You may be able to find a lab that can do a test at a discounted rate.
Don’t be intimidated if you are uninsured: If you don’t have insurance then you’ll most likely have more bargaining power because you’ll be billed higher than an insurance company. Insurance companies get discounts and you should ask for the same, which could be as high as 30% to 40%.
Do Your Homework. Evaluate all the insurance, Medicaid, and charity options available to you. Yes this takes time but you could have a family member or friend help you. And remember; don’t be afraid to ask the medical billing office questions about your alternatives.
Ask for help: Nonprofit groups such as The Access Project can help you find the information you require to get a discount but you’ll need to self-advocate and negotiate on your own. Other groups fall into the category of paid medical advocates. For example, the group Medical Cost Advocates charges 35% of the amount saved, but they will do the negotiating and the organizing of your bills.
Pay your bills: Almost half of all collection accounts that appear on consumer credit reports are from unpaid medical bills. That’s from a Federal Reserve study. Whether these are legitimate unpaid bills or mistakes made by the medical community it ends up that the consumer is responsible for tracking their own bills. Doctors, hospitals and other medical related groups mostly ship these unpaid bills to collection agencies, and they in turn report them to the credit agencies. And as a result your credit score will suffer and these black marks could stay on your score for seven years.
As you evaluate your personal situation, remember the three things you should always do when dealing with medical bills — don’t be afraid to negotiate them, always keep track of them and remember to pay them off in a timely manner. This way your financial status will remain healthy.