There’s no doubt about it: medical bills can get expensive. Even if you have excellent health insurance, you may be looking at a large bill following an important treatment or procedure.
That’s why millions of patients look at their bills, sigh, and simply grit their teeth and open their wallets. They don’t realize that like many other industries, there is often some wiggle room on those bills—but to get it, they need to be willing to negotiate.
While negotiation seems time-consuming, it definitely pays off: a 2021 survey indicated that 93% of those who turned to negotiation did get their bill lowered (or even dismissed).
If you’re new to the idea of negotiating your medical bill and want to know more, you’re in luck: we’ve put these tips together for you. Do note that negotiating a bill may require lots of calls and weeks or even months to resolve—but your patience can pay off.
- Get to work right away.
If you receive a bill you can’t pay, don’t just toss it aside. When faced with huge numbers, we’re tempted to ignore them and hope they go away. They won’t. If you continuously ignore your medical bills, they’ll be sent to collections, which can lead to things like garnished paychecks and worse.
As soon as you know you’ve got a bill you can’t pay, get in touch with your hospital, doctor’s office, lab, or practitioner and let them know. The other tactics we discuss below are most effective if you put them to work right when you get a bill—by doing your best to pay something, you’re basically showing the billing department that you want to work with them. That kind of good faith can work in your favor.
- Make sure you’re being charged correctly.
The way medical bills and Explanations of Benefits are coded means a single typo can drive up the final price. Slightly different codes may also be the deciding factor in what percentage of a procedure your health insurance covers. Ask for a detailed bill that breaks down all the charges for your treatment or visit—these can get quite long!—and review each code.
While this tactic will require you to put in some time at the computer, it will almost certainly pay off, as over 80% of medical bills have incorrect charges on them. Maintaining this kind of diligence may also help you uncover any potential healthcare fraud associated with your medical identity.
- Ask them to reduce the price.
Your hospital or doctor’s office wants you to be able to pay something. If the bill you receive is too high for you to pay, you can ask for a lower rate. They may offer you the following options:
- Discount based on your total income (you may need your tax returns to prove this)
- Discount based on you paying a certain sum in cash at this time
- Request a payment plan.
If your practitioner won’t budge on the price, ask if you can pay off your bill in installments. Again, your doctor’s office or hospital wants to get paid something for the services they provide, and they may show flexibility as long as you lay out how much you can pay on a monthly or yearly basis.
Keep on negotiating—but make sure you’re protected.
These tactics will continue to pay off over time, as next time a large medical bill arrives in the mail, you’ll know what steps to take to get it reduced.
In the meantime, why not protect yourself from the fraud that’s often behind the overbilling that appears on many statements? When you become a HealthLock member, we monitor your medical bills and Explanations of Benefits, essentially taking on the burden of researching and inspecting each code that appears. When a bill is good to go, we’ll give you the all clear. If we believe you’re being overbilled, we’ll flag it—and we can even negotiate for you.