With rising out-of-pocket costs, haggling with your hospital or doctor’s office might seem like a necessity. Despite this, many people will just accept doctor’s bills without a second thought. However, if you put a little thought and energy into negotiating your medical bills, you can reduce them or get them 100%. forgiven.
Most don’t know it, but negotiating with your doctor or hospital can go a long way for a little bit of time and energy.
Know the REAL Costs
Sites like Health Care Blue Book and Vimo will give you an idea of how much money medical services should cost based on the discount that the average insurer receives. By knowing the actual cost of services, you will know if your doctor is overcharging you or not. Also, having this information can help you determine how much of a discount to ask for based on your bill when negotiating with your doctor’s office.
Do NOT pay with a Credit Card
The next step in the negotiating process starts before you talk to your doctor’s office. Make sure you plan to pay in cash or via your checking account. Paying with a credit card gives you less upfront negotiating room with a doctor’s office. Having the money in hand makes doctors offices want to negotiate and work with you. It is also good to pay with what you have on hand because you might end up paying more in the end with credit card fees than your discount was worth.
Use KEYWORDS to secure a discount
Once you have the money upfront and pricing reference points and before you’ve committed to the procedure call or visit the billing office for your doctor or hospital and try to negotiate your bills. Do this before receiving treatment.
Being clear, upfront, and confident can go a long way. Saying something like, “Wow, these bills are very expensive, is there anything you can do to make it more affordable?” is a good starting point. Or say something along the lines of:
“My insurance is not going to cover this part of the treatment, so I’m paying for it out of pocket for care, can I get a better price on this?”
Using key phrases such as, “expensive,” “out of pocket” and, “affordable price,” helps convey what you want and need and usually are the kind of words that trigger the billing department into being willing to negotiate with you.
Making it personal can help as well when negotiating with your doctor. If you’ve chosen a doctor due to their reputation and recommendations from friends, mention that. If you’ve recently lost your job, tell the billing office. These things might make the billing staff more willing to give you a break.
One great way to secure a substantial discount is to offer to pay upfront and out of pocket for the services in exchange for a discount. “I can pay upfront in cash,” is the best way to begin a conversation to secure the largest possible discount. People have reported getting a discount of up to 50% on average using this strategy.
Financial Assistance isn’t just for the POOR
In a hospital, your motto should be ‘just ask,’ for instance, you should just ask if you qualify for financial assistance. Those programs are not just for those in poverty. Someone who earns $100,000 per year but has $50,000 a year in medical expenses may also qualify for financial assistance programs, so always, just ask. You never know how much you can get until you just inquire about what qualifies you for certain medical services.
ASK about Payment Plans
If you still have a rather large bill after successfully negotiating for a discount you want to ask for an interest-free payment plan next.
Asking for a payment plan leaves you with a huge advantage. It allows you the ability to renegotiating an even bigger discount later down the line. This can lead to your bill being completely forgiven just by negotiating with your doctor just once more.
After making timely payments on a payment plan for six or more months, you can then write to billing office and explain your situation. Tell them how long you’ve been paying for, how much more is owed, how much has been paid and then ask them to forgive the remainder of the bill. Sometimes, you can get lucky and the doctor’s office will either offer you an even larger discount or will forgive the remaining balance on your account entirely.
A template for this letter would look like this:
To <doctors> Billing Offices:
My name is <your name>. I have been steadily making payments of <amount> for my bill of <total amount> over the past <number of months> months. I have faithfully paid promptly each month. I am writing because my family is going through a difficult financial period and was wondering if you could please consider forgiving the rest of my balance due.
<Your Name & Contact Information>
Negotiating with your Doctor
Do not be afraid to ask! People sometimes worry that they’ll let lesser care if they ask for a discount from their doctor. The truth is doctors are just happy that you’re willing to pay the bill and not walk out on it that they are more than likely ready to work with you to help you pay for services accordingly. Also, remember, medicine is a service industry, and doctors want their patients or customers to be happy with both the services received and the price of those services!
You never know what can happen, at worst your doctor can say no and at best, you can end up saving a lot of money on medical costs.