Lower Your Medical Bills Through Negotiation, Cost Comparison, and Haggling

by RC on April 11, 2008

The April 2008 Edition of Smart Money Magazine contains an article entitled “Under the Knife: Cutting Medical Bills”, by Angie C. Marek. The article describes how “haggling” for better deals on medical costs is on the rise, and similar to finding the best price for airlines and hotels, those who search out the best deals will get better rates than those that do not.  The article describes 6 ways to get better deals and lower your medical costs.

 Ask for it early- Ask for a price break before the procedure, not after the bill comes in. Surgeons may offer a discount on the surgery fee, or a “two-fer” if you are getting more than one procedure done, such as with  plastic/cosmetic surgery. The author was also successful in getting 8 out of 10 mental-health professionals to offer some sort of discount on therapy sessions by approaching them and asking for a break on the price.

Pay in cash up front- Not surprisingly, paying in cash was the number one incentive to offer a discount, according to doctors questioned.  Ask the doctor or medical care provider up front for a discount for paying cash in advance, you certainly have nothing to lose.  Another good reason not to use a credit card, I would think!

Do your homework- The article describes how it can be difficult to bargain when you are not sure of the real cost of something.  One web resource listed was www.nahdo.org, where you can search for medical care cost data by state.  Another technique I have used is to use my health insurance provider’s member website, which can offer prices for drugs and other services as well. Also, I have found a simple Google search can often turn up information.

Butter up the billing staff-It is the people in the back office, running the business side of things,  not the doctors’ themselves, who often hold the power to reducing your medical bills.  Just by speaking with the office coordinator and fretting over the bill, the author was able to get a 66% price break on a skin tag (small growth) removal procedure.

Go at an off-peak time- Go to a plastic surgeon after the summer bathing suit season, and you may be able to score an “off-season” deal.  Also, offer to fill in for a cancellation at the last minute, or schedule an appointment at lunch time and they may cut you a break as well.

Hire an advocate- Hiring a professional to review your bill and negotiate a better deal for you may save you money, even after paying their fee.  A “Health Care Advocate” may have experience in health care billing which may result in savings for you. Do your homework before hiring one though, checking references and with the Better Business Bureau.

In these times of soaring medical costs, it certainly never hurts to ask for a discount, especially if you are underinsured or do not have health insurance, and the more informed you are about any medical costs you may incur, the better off you will be. This past January I changed my family’s health plan to a high deductible plan with an HSA (which I will discuss in the near future) where I pay a the first $2500 in costs out of pocket up front, so over the past few months I have been trying to educate myself on medical and prescription drug costs.  I will certainly be trying out some of these tactics when the situation arises in the near future.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

the debt defier April 13, 2008 at 1:56 am

i’d also add that you must be very vigilant to check for errors. i don’t know how many times i’ve caught them charging me for services that i never received or billing me at the wrong percentage.


RC April 13, 2008 at 5:59 pm

Very good point, I have have had several instances where I have been overcharged, or even where my insurance has incorrectly rejected the bill and the hospital tried to bill me for the whole amount!


Funny about Money April 16, 2008 at 8:43 am

This is something not many people know about. When I had an HSA, I discovered that doctors so hate dealing with insurance companies that they’re willing to give you a price break when they find out you’re paying out of pocket. It saves them money: they don’t have to pay someone to collect the fees for treating you, and they get paid right away instead of months later.

We shouldn’t have to go through this b.s. to get medical care!


RC April 20, 2008 at 2:09 pm

I haven’t had that happen yet, although I hope it does. You’re right about the B.S.!


Glenn April 3, 2009 at 2:40 pm

A lot of people tell you that you can negotiate your medical bills, but don’t tell you how do go about it, what to say or who to talk to. My new program give you step-by-step instructions on how to negotiate your bills and even provides you with template letters to send to your creditors. I also show you proof that I lowered my bills by $20,000.

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David January 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Medical Bill Helper negotiates bills on behalf of consumers. There is no charge unless the bill is lowered by at least 10%. Our negotiators have achieved hundreds of millions of dollars in discounts over the past decade.


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