For many patients, one of the biggest decisions when finding the best possible care for their situation comes down to affordability. But what many patients don’t know could dramatically reduce their healthcare costs the next time they visit the hospital.
Insurance companies are known for haggling with the medical facility over the cost of care. And an increasing number of individuals are realizing that the ordinary patient can bargain with the billing office, too.
Know Before You Go
Some research and price comparison before you go in for your appointment can win you a significant amount of savings when the bill comes later. Calling the doctor’s office beforehand and asking for a list of projected fees can help you compare options. Websites such as Healthcare Blue Book are free consumer guides to show fair prices in your area for differing medical services.
Forbes Magazine reported on one financial planner from Minneapolis who researched several different hospitals before choosing where to schedule his orthopedic surgery. This resulted in thousands of dollars in savings.
With a list of potential fees from the hospital, patients can then call their insurance provider and discover how much they will be required to pay. Equipped with this information, you can then contact the billing department and try to negotiate.
Check an Itemized List
If you have already had your procedure and were readmitted to the hospital after passing out from the shock of an astronomical hospital bill, then there are also some effective ways to approach the billing office and still negotiate your actual payment.
Requesting help rather than demanding in a panic is a good way to begin approaching the office. Author of Heatlthcare for Less, Michelle Katz writes that “People are always more likely to lend a hand when you acknowledge them as fellow human beings, rather than as bureaucrats.”
Depending on the bill, your negotiating strategy will differ. Ask for a list of charges after a hospital stay and scrutinize the items for possible errors. Hospitals will occasionally charge for included items such as towels and cotton swabs which should come with the price of a room. Extra charges for services that never actually took place or for devices that were not used can also save a bit when brought to the attention of the billing department.
When visiting the doctor in his office, come prepared with cash to pay upfront. Medical facilities are often happy to reduce the bill in exchange for quick payment upfront. “You might win as much as 50 percent off full price,” advises Cindy Holtzman, a medical billing advocate from Georgia, “if you offer to pay quickly by cash or check.”
In addition to price comparison website, there is also a growing number of companies who will negotiate on your behalf in exchange for a percentage of the savings. One such negotiator from Maine, John Gillis, the president of Insnet, claims a 75 percent success rate by being prepared with data in order to discuss specifics with billing offices.
Image from savingsintelligent.com