With many consumers out of work and the remainder on health insurance plans that may or may not pay for the big bills, it is important for all consumers to have an action plan in place to cut costs, if needed. It may not be possible to avoid having major procedures done. Study up on these quick tips for how to lower your final price tag on most health care statements.
Ask Before You Are Seen
With the exception of emergency procedures (which can’t be prepared for), you will want to ask many questions up front about the treatment you will have and how you may be able to lower the cost before it happens. Perhaps there is a discount for having generic medicines while in the hospital, or sharing a room could cut down fees over the cost of a private room. Prepaying may offer a 20-30% discount on the cost of a baby delivery, for example. By letting your doctor know that you are uninsured or struggling to pay, they can arrange for the best course of treatment for your budget – without skipping on the necessities.
Apply for Financial Assistance
Just like colleges, many hospitals have funds available from private donations to help offset the costs of much-needed medical treatments for those in a lower income bracket. You generally do not need to be dirt poor to get some help, with programs giving anywhere from a 10% – 80% discount on services for those making income below 100 – 150% of the national poverty line. In some cases, these funds can pay for all but just a fraction of your bill. Be sure to visit the financial aid office before having treatment; if you were seen for an emergency, arrange a meeting as soon as you are able.
Immediately Work out a Payment Plan
Dodging the bill is a horrible way to handle an enormous debt. In fact, your unwillingness to communicate may send your bill to collections faster than if you were to respond with a request to make payments over the course of several years. Hospitals will vary on how small of payments they will accept, but paying cash over time has its advantages; most payment plans won’t charge interest – unlike those credit cards you may have been tempted to use for the occasion.
Double-check Your Bill
If you have not received a detailed account of your bill, be sure to get one right away. Mistakes do happen, and when you are dealing with hundreds or even thousands of dollars per line item, it is to your advantage to look things over very carefully. Be certain to do this as soon after the procedure as possible. You (and your doctor) are more likely to remember just what you had done, and what you didn’t. The billing office is the right place to initiate any dispute you may have on your bill.
Get Professional Help
If after trying to negotiate your bill, you find yourself getting nowhere, a professional may be the answer you need. According to All You Magazine, a medical billing advocate may charge anywhere from 25 – 35% of the cost of the amount saved, but the price is most likely better than the devastation of having to file bankruptcy. The magazine suggests finding more information on advocates from medicalcostadvocate.com or healthproponent.com.
Stay on Top of Changes
Once you have worked out a plan, or are otherwise set with your payment agreement, be certain that you don’t drop the ball on maintaining it. If you move, change phone numbers, suffer from financial difficulties, or are no longer able to pay as much or as often, it’s best to let the billing department know from you – rather than when it hits collections. A good record of payment can buy you time, so be forthcoming with any information that could make it hard to pay, and keep your records current with your total pay off amount and your contact at the billing office.
Medical bills are a common cause of financial distress, but they can be managed if done early and with diligence. If you have a financial professional at your disposal, it may be wise to consult them with any questions or problems you have as a result of medical care you have had.
Linsey Knerl is a homeschooling mom of 5 and a freelance blogger and writer. You can read more about her at www.the1099mom.com