How to Negotiate Medical Bills | Reduce Hospital and Lab Fees

Most of us have had the unfortunate duty of paying for a ridiculously high medical bill or two. When you’re hit with astronomical charges, you may think that you’ve got very few options. However, that’s entirely true. 

Before you take out a loan to pay off your large medical bills or adjust your budget for the next several months, consider negotiating. That’s right; you might be able to speak with the medical provider that serviced you and get your bills significantly reduced.

Don’t worry; we’re not going to send you unarmed. Read on to learn the most effective strategies for getting your medical bills reduced.

Examine the Bill

For starters, closely examine your medical bills. Most of us tend to assume that whatever the bill says we owe, it must mean that we have to pay that exact amount. However, there are many hospital bills that consist of extras and add-ons.

You may find that your medical bill is full of service charges, procedures, and supplies. And don’t forget, it’s certainly in the realm of possibility for an administrator to make a mistake.

There are many real-world instances of people getting charged more than they should have. Some went unnoticed until after the bill had already been paid. Others, though, were able to catch the hospital’s mistake ahead of time and get the matter resolved.

If there is an honest mistake on your medical bill, the hospital or physician’s office that cared for you should be more than happy to correct their error. If not, you have a different problem on your hands altogether and will need to contact an attorney to handle the matter for you.

This is why it’s so important to look over all of your medical bills. Hospitals see countless patients and can very easily make a mistake. It may take you some time to understand the jargon on your medical bills, but stick with it and take the time to study them.

In doing so, you will become more familiar with the hospital’s billing methods and be more likely to catch errors in the future.

Research

Whenever you talk with a hospital administrator, it pays to know the typical charges of certain procedures and treatments beforehand. To learn this information, there are various websites available online that can instruct you on such fees and charges.

Websites such as Healthcare Bluebook are designed to let patients look up what specific procedures and services should cost. As such, you will be in a better position to negotiate your medical charges when the time comes. 

Going in empty-handed will only serve to make matters worse and is likely to lead to unnecessary confusion and arguments over the charges. Take the time to brush up on your knowledge of medical billings so that you can avoid such instances.

What’s more, it will allow you to have better conversations with hospital staff and put you in a position where you can more clearly explain your concerns.

Call

Before you pick up the phone to call the hospital or medical practice, be sure to have your bill in front of you. Furthermore, make sure that you have your insurance card, as well as any other pertinent information and documentation that you think you may need. 

Above all, be polite and work on keeping your cool. It’s important to remember that the person on the other end of the line isn’t the one who incorrectly or overcharged you. When you are courteous and polite to them, you can expect to get this right back. 

Conversely, the opposite is true, too. Instead of getting the help you need, you’re likely to cause the conversation to go off the rails and be cut short.

You should also make it a point to take detailed notes during the phone call. This will ensure that you have a record of what you were told. Also, be sure to note the time and day of the phone call, as well as the name of the person who assisted you. This information could come in handy later, as you are unlikely to speak to the same person twice.

And if you do, that person isn’t likely to remember you. They speak with many other patients throughout the day and may only remember bits and pieces of your phone conversation. With a detailed recording in front of you, it will be much easier for you to convey your circumstances. 

Ask Open-Ended Questions

When you do make your phone call, make sure that you ask questions about the prices. You may not think that these can be negotiated, but you’d be amazed at what can be adjusted. By asking open-ended questions, you can get more information on discounts, waivers, and any available relief plans that might be offered through the hospital.

Instead of asking “yes” or “no” questions, try asking something like, “What kind of special discounts are offered on these charges?”

Discuss Your Options

Once you have made it clear that you aren’t in a position to pay the huge charges on your medical bill, ask if there are any alternatives to paying the bill in full. You might have an idea for how you’ll pay off the bill, but there could be other methods that you haven’t considered.

For example, you might be able to pay your bill if there are promotions or waivers applied. If you can get the hospital’s approval to do so, you’ll be one step closer to getting out from under your bill.

Also, keep in mind that many hospitals and doctor’s offices will work with patients in paying off their medical charges. Many will break up your payments into easy monthly fees instead of having you pay off the bill all in one costly lump sum. 

What’s more, there usually isn’t interest, so you can pay exactly what’s owed without having to worry about extending your payment period out any longer than what is necessary.

But you must be willing to ask your provider. Ignoring your medical bill won’t make it go away. In fact, it will only serve to make things much worse.

Ask About Medical Forgiveness

If you are financially strapped and unable to pay off your medical bill legitimately, medical forgiveness may be a viable option for you. However, with this option comes the need to provide proof of your financial hardship.

As such, you will need to make sure that you are sincerely in a position where you can’t afford to make your payments. If that is indeed the case, gather up your financial records so that you’ll have them ready when the hospital or doctor’s office requests them.

Once approved, you can have your bill wiped clean and the worry erased from your life. 

What You Don’t Want to Do

The last thing you want to do is ignore your expensive medical bill. Although it may be tempting to try and forget about it, doing so will cause your credit score will drop significantly. What’s more, you’ll likely find yourself having to deal with a debt collection agency in the near future. 

Running from your medical charges is a bad idea any way you look at it. Instead, it is much better to ask as many questions as you can to see if negotiating your charges is an option. You won’t know what kind of options you have unless you ask.

Unfortunately, many people are too afraid to ask these kinds of questions and instead find themselves in debt and running from creditors. Don’t put yourself in this position. Pick up the phone and speak with your medical provider. It may turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Summary

Your medical bills are undoubtedly one of the more expensive charges you are likely to pay in your life. As such, you need to be armed and ready to negotiate these high costs as best you can. As we explained above, it pays to know what you’re talking about when you contact your medical provider.

Take the time to brush up on your medical pricing knowledge and get busy negotiating. In the end, you may find that it was your inside knowledge that gave you the edge you needed to come out on top.

Here at Seek Capital, we care about your financial situation and want you to be well prepared for whatever life throws at you. For more helpful information, be sure to check out our blogs page. There, you will find valuable articles that cover everything from loans to credit cards and more. 

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We will be happy to assist you in any way that we can, and we look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sources

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/80-percent-hospital-bills-have-errors-are-you-being-overcharged

https://www.healthcarebluebook.com/explore-home/

https://www.cms.gov/files/document/summary-covid-19-emergency-declaration-waivers.pdf

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