7 Smart Ways to Negotiate Your Medical Bills

Every year, over half a million families in the United States turn to bankruptcy due to medical bills and issues. But when you're recovering from an injury, illness or medical procedure, the focus of you and your family should be on your recovery, not how you're going to keep the lights on and pay your medical bills on time. Today, we reveal seven smart ways to negotiate your medical bills so you can focus on what matters most.

1. Ask If You Qualify For Discounts

This is a good policy just about anywhere you go. But it is especially useful when receiving medical bills. You may be surprised to learn that your doctor is part of a hospital network that offers a 10% discount if the bill is paid over the phone and you ask for the discount. Or, you may qualify for some type of charity care program to help you cover up to 30% of what your insurance doesn't.

2. Be Polite

The key to negotiating your medical bills is to be polite but persistent. Hospitals and other health care providers would rather collect some money than no money. If you explain your financial situation in a calm, objective way, you may find that you can get on a payment plan. If you can, offer to pay 20% upfront and see if you can get a two-year installment plan, or 24 months to pay the remaining 80% of the bill.

3. Learn The Jargon

When it comes to health care and health insurance providers, there's a lot of jargon. Understanding this jargon will save you a lot of confusion and headache in the future.

The five key words and phrases to understand are:

  • Deductible
  • Co-pay
  • Co-insurance
  • In-network
  • Out of network

4. Understand The Fees Ahead Of Time

One of the most common mistakes people make is going into a procedure without knowing all the fees they will incur. If you need a procedure performed, get a quote in writing with the signature, name and title of the doctor. This quote should include all costs, from the cost of the procedure to radiologist fees, anesthesiologist fees, laboratory costs and anything else you may be charged for. Also, make sure the anesthesiologist, radiologist and X-ray technician, if applicable, are in-network before committing to a particular hospital.

5. Learn To Identify Common Medical Billing Errors

If your medical bill is wrong, don't think the worst. Medical bills are coded by people who sometimes make mistakes. However, it's still important to review your medical bill and understand each line item you're paying. Some of the most common errors you need to watch out for include:

  • Upcoding
  • Unbundling
  • Duplicate billing
  • Mismatched coding
  • Balance billing

6. Visit Your Hospital's Billing Department

If you think you've spotted an error on your medical bill, visit your hospital's billing department to ask for clarification. If it happens once, it will likely happen again. It may seem like you're saving time by paying the incorrect medical bill, but there's a good chance you have to work longer to pay the difference than the 30 minutes it would take to talk to your hospital's billing department.

7. Get Professional Help

If you're not getting anywhere with your hospital's billing department, it may be time to seek professional help. Ask your state's bar association for a referral for an attorney specializing in medical billing disputes or medical billing advocate. You may be surprised to find a nonprofit advocate who will do this work for free, a small percentage of what they can save you or a reasonable hourly fee.

If you're in recovery, your focus should be on getting better. However, with the cost of medical bills, this can feel impossible. To help you sleep better at night, familiarize yourself with common health insurance jargon, get quotes in writing before any procedure and make sure everyone who will be treating you is in-network, learn how to spot the most common medical billing errors, ask if you qualify for any discounts, visit your hospital's billing department if you have any questions, be polite but firm and don't be afraid to ask for professional help if you've dug in your heels but haven't made any ground.

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