Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a must, especially if you want to avoid getting sick. However, even healthy people become ill or need surgery, which can end up being very costly. Even with the implementation of Obamacare, not all medical expenses are going to be covered in the future.
When you’re trying to recover from a procedure or illness, having a huge medical bill looming over you can be extremely stressful.
Ask for a discount
As soon as you find out how much the procedure or service is going to cost, start the negotiation process. If you have health insurance, you can start with your provider. First, call ahead and be sure to understand what is covered and how much you’ll have to pay out of pocket.
If there is a large amount you have to pay, explain your financial situation, and they may reduce the cost.
If you don’t get anywhere with your health insurance, you can contact your doctor and explain your situation. If your doctor thinks it’s in your best interest to have the prescribed service, sometimes they will work with you. You can also try to offer to pay cash in exchange for a discount.
Remember to always find out how much things cost, ahead of time, so you’re not surprised later on. This also applies when your doctor fills out a prescription for you. It’s wise to ask how much the particular brand of medicine costs — and reiterate that you want a generic version, if possible. Many times physicians will push certain brands of pills, especially if they are working closely with pharmaceutical companies.
If your health insurance provider and doctor won’t budge on the cost, work out some sort of payment plan. It’s better to do this as soon as you find out how much it is, instead of waiting until you receive the bill. It also shows them you are responsible and concerned about paying your bills on time.
Insurance providers and doctors will usually arrange a payment plan because it’s more beneficial for them to have you pay the amount slowly than not at all.
Usually, they will ask you how much you can pay. This would be a good opportunity to give them a number that’s lower than what you actually want to pay.
Research and compare
Just like you would do if you were looking to buy a car or take out a loan, it’s important to research the average cost of your surgery or procedure. In terms of health, it’s also beneficial to get a second opinion, and it would give you a chance to see how much other doctors are charging.
On most health insurance company sites, they have comparison rates by hospital and procedures available to their subscribers.
If you are adamant about staying with a particular physician and/or hospital, you will have to pay whatever the difference is between what the insurer pays and what comes out of your own pocket. Healthcare Blue Book is a great resource you can use to compare prices.
Knowing this information can you give you leverage for a discount when you’re presented with the price. You can inform your doctor or healthcare provider that you saw it for a lesser amount elsewhere and if they could match the price.
You can negotiate a pre-treatment price through something called flat billing, if you opt for something that your insurance company doesn’t cover, such as plastic surgery.
Tracy McDougald, who is a patient advocate at CoPatient, said the best thing about this strategy is that it’s all-inclusive. You won’t have any extra surprise bills months later.
Keep in mind…
It’s common for doctors and insurance companies to not be able to calculate an exact price. There are various costs associated with having surgery done in a hospital. For example, the anesthesiologist charges separately, there are prescription costs, which may not be accurate since they don’t necessarily know ahead of time what drugs will be prescribed.
The doctor’s fee and the hospital stay should be available up front, but keep in mind this figure will also be an estimate. As soon as you get an estimate, call your health insurance provider and start negotiating!
Mariel is a staff writer for MyBankTracker.com. Her columns focus on consumer spending, bank accounts and money psychology.