Negotiate Your Medical Bills Away

Bills, bills, go away! Don’t come back on any day!

So, Kerstin has told me a number of times that I need to blog about the topic of negotiating medical bills. This is because there are very few medical statements in which I have paid the full cost printed on the “total” line, even after my insurance paid. I believe these tactics can help with any type of healthcare expense even though my experience with lofty medical bills has only come about from having babies. In full disclosure, I don’t claim to be an expert in this field. I also don’t always get exactly what I ask for.  I have, however, managed to consistently pay less than the amount printed on my medical statements and estimate that I have saved upwards of $500. I will share 4 tips on how you may be able to, as well.

drew-hays-206414

It’s no secret that I’m a bargain shopper and low price seeker when it comes to nearly everything in my life. While I do believe the mantra, “you get what you pay for,” I also believe that cost, in many cases, is negotiable. This was certainly true with my medical bills after the birth of Kiddo A, and because I had success in negotiating away or minimizing those expenses, I used the same tactics after the arrival of Baby B.

carlo-navarro-219810

Tips

1. Take the time to review:

I spotted charges on my hospital statements for items I never received and medicine I never ingested. I also reviewed the procedures just in case I was being charged for something that didn’t happen. Even if the charges were small, I still highlighted them because they quickly added up. I also found a clause in my insurance policy concerning my coverage which stated that out of network providers could be utilized in specific circumstances. This applied to my situation, yet no one mentioned it to me. This was especially important because I was charged for using an out of network provider even though my community didn’t have a single in network provider for that specialty.

I compared my insurance provider’s Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements and found discrepancies between what they said I owed in payment versus what the doctors’ offices billed. I also called the billing services and checked prices. It only happened once, but one of the providers overcharged for a routine procedure that was accidentally coded or recorded incorrectly.

2. Keep the lines of communication open and document:

The same month I received my medical bills I called the number on the statement. The entity collecting the money wasn’t always the healthcare provider and it was incredibly important that they knew I was working on my balance. I  just let them know that I received the statement and that I would be doing some review and research before addressing it.

This is the time that I asked about discounts and write-off possibilities. Again, I took any amount offered. I also did my best to learn their processes and timeline. This allowed me to know how much time I had to negotiate before they turned my statement over to collections; and if I needed to contact them monthly. (Sometimes the entire process would take the better part of a year because my insurance company moved so slowly.) I also learned if I should contact the healthcare provider, the insurance company, or if the person I was talking to is who I needed to stay in contact with.

I took detailed notes with the date and time as well as the names of the people I spoke with. This documentation saved me more than once when it came to keeping everything straight and having bills forgiven. This was even more powerful when the person I spoke with gave incorrect or incomplete information. I referenced it and received more money back than I may have otherwise.

3. Inquire about a discount or write-off:

Many of the companies I worked with offered discounts for the full payment of a medical bill. I found this to be true even if I had to ask more than once or speak with more than one person. I was able to get 5% – 20% taken off my balance by paying the lump sum up front. Additionally, when a 5% discount was offered, I asked if we could go closer to 10% or 15%. I was often successful.

Some providers were willing to simply forgive the remainder of my bill. I documented my effort to resolve my remaining balance and sent a letter asking for the remainder to be written off. (I included a simple sample template below.) I was surprised at how often the remainder of a bill was forgiven once insurance paid.

4. Just ask:

When I found a mistake or discrepancy in paperwork, I could easily call and ask about it. Almost always the other party was willing to correct it, which was automatic money back in my pocket. However, it was more uncomfortable to ask for a discount or for my bill to be forgiven. I would prep myself by having notes with my “entire ask” written in front of me before calling. This gave me confidence. I would take a few deep breaths and put a smile on my face in order to sound as pleasant as possible. I also reminded myself that I all I could do was ask and the worst they could do is say, “no.”

ilya-pavlov-87472

Example Template

{DATE}

Re: {YOUR NAME} Medical Bill Balance

Dear Dr. {NAME},

You provided care for me at the {HOSPITAL / CLINIC / PLACE NAME} for {CONDITION}. I am an insured patient. I met my out of pocket deductible and all medical financial responsibilities this year. My insurance provider, ({NAME}), paid 100% of all my medical bills for that {CONDITION / PROCEDURE}. I have also attempted to {LIST ALL ACTIONS TAKEN}.

{INSURANCE NAME} also paid {PORTION AMOUNT} of my medical charges from you, leaving a balance of {BALANCE AMOUNT}. {LOCAL PLACE NAME} {SPECIALISTS} are out of network {OR OTHER REASON}; and {INSURANCE NAME} denied my appeal to pay the remaining balance citing that, “{REASON}.”

Please consider forgiving the remaining balance of {BALANCE AMOUNT} on my account.

Thank You,

{NAME}

{Phone}

{Email}

{Address}

{City, State, Zip}

Enclosures: {NUMBER} ({LIST OF ENCLOSURES})

What tactics have you used to save money or lower your medical bills?

Photos from Unsplash

Check out these other JBJ shares:

Scared to Death Over Peanuts: Finding Sensitivity

Little Brother N’s Story: A Different Kind of Birth Part II

I Talked to Fierce Women about Health Hacks and it was Awesome!

Morning Sickness Tales & Tips

6 Pinterest Wins You Should Try

Mentally Preparing for VBAC: 4 Tips

Dear Friends, I Lied.

Hold Your Tongue – Literally!

 

3 thoughts on “Negotiate Your Medical Bills Away

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *