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Ways to Cut Your Medical Bills
Contrary to what many people think, there are things you can do to reduce your medical bills – both before and after the bills show up in your mailbox. Consumer Reports suggests:
Check things out ahead of time. If you are planning surgery, make sure that your insurance covers both the surgical procedure and the facility where you will have it done. Ask your doctor for a letter confirming that anyone involved in the surgery accepts your insurance.
If you are paying for your surgery without insurance, negotiate. Start with requesting a fee comparable to what insurance companies pay, rather than what the providers charge. Providers are often willing to negotiate with patients who are paying their costs on their own.
Know what the normal charges are. Whether you are negotiating before or after you receive your bill, check online for what reasonable and customary charges are in your area; two sites to visit are fairhealthconsumer.org and healthcarebluebook.com. That way you won’t end up paying more than the usual charges, and you might be able to negotiate a discount.
Be prepared to be on the phone. Always check your bill when you get it. If something is not covered, find out why. For example, sometimes a provider enters the wrong code for a procedure. Keep asking to speak to a higher supervisor until you get an answer or find someone who is willing to negotiate with you.
Pay cash. If you can afford to pay all or most of your bill immediately, ask for a “prompt pay” discount. Many providers will offer a significant discount if they don’t have to wait for their money.
Ask for a payment plan. If you cannot afford to pay all of a bill when it is due, explain your circumstances to the provider and request an interest-free payment plan. Most providers will accommodate you rather than run the risk that you will never pay your bill.
Find an advocate. Many hospitals can connect you with a patient advocate, or you can hire a private advocate. In either case, they can help you navigate the complex waters of coding and billing.