Health care costs go up every year. But you don’t need to be stuck with a big bill. Here are 5 ways to lower your medical bills.
A visit to a doctor or hospital can be stressful if you don’t have health insurance. Even insurance with a high deductible can make any visit an expensive trip. The good news is that many medical providers are willing to help. They will work with patients to ensure that they can receive care and realistically pay off bills.
The first step is letting your care provider know about your situation. Your provider may allow you to skip certain routine tests or procedures that aren’t totally necessary based on your age, health and medical history if it’s known ahead of time that you’re paying out of your own pocket. Your care provider may also give you generic medications to help lower your bill.
You can also take steps to help you reduce the financial burden of getting the care you need. Here are five smart things to remember if you’re interested in negotiating your medical bills.
Ask About a Care Provider’s Policy for Uninsured Clients
Some care providers and medical institutions have policies that automatically reduce bills for uninsured patients. The same policies often extend to patients in specific income brackets. For example, UNC Medical Center offers an automatic 40 percent discount to uninsured patients, while Cedars-Sinai Medical Center offers full financial assistance to those who are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
What if your care provider doesn’t have any type of policy for reducing bills? Look for a new provider in your area that offers similar services with the option for bill reductions. Be sure to inquire about options for payments when you book your appointment with a new provider.
Ask About Cash Discounts
You could receive special rates for medical services if you’ll be paying with cash in some offices. It’s important to mention that you’ll be paying with cash before you receive any services. Many doctors, labs, hospitals, and facilities offer discounts of as much as 20 percent, or more if you’ll be paying your bill in full using cash at the time of your visit.
Resource: How to afford health care in retirement
Inquire About Bill Reductions
What do you do if you arrive home from a stay in a hospital and find a large bill waiting for you? The first step is to contact the hospital’s billing department. The hospital is unlikely to forgive your entire bill. However, many hospitals have forgiveness policies that could drastically reduce your bill by thousands of dollars. It’s important to reach out to a billing department as soon as you receive your bill. Ignoring the bill or putting off taking action could result in delinquent payments that could create a real financial mess for you.
Seek Help Beyond Your Medical Provider
There’s a possibility that the specific medical office or hospital that you’re using doesn’t provide any sort of discount or forgiveness plan for patients who do not have medical insurance. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re out of options. There are a number of charitable organizations and advocacy groups that specialize in helping people pay medical bills or receive assistance. Your medical provider should be able to recommend an organization near you.
Don’t Forget to Make Sure Your Medical Bills Are Accurate
The last thing you need is to overpay for a bill because of an error. Be sure to inspect all of the medical bills you receive to check for inaccurate or duplicated charges. You should examine any charges that seem unusually high. Don’t be afraid to challenge charges that seem inaccurate. You should also make sure that dates of service are correct to ensure that you’re only being billed for appointments that actually happened.
One bright piece of news for people with medical debt is that the three major reporting agencies are about to change the way they handle medical debt on credit reports. The agencies will begin using a waiting period of 180 days before including medical debt on a consumer’s credit report to ensure that enough time has passed for disputes to be addressed.
Published or updated August 20, 2017.