Taking a trip to your doctor’s office can be a dreadful experience — in more than one way than one. In comparison to your actual appointment or hospital operation, chances are you may feel more worried about the medical bill you’ll receive at the end of it all. But it doesn’t have to be that way – not entirely, at least.
We’re here to offer a glimmer of hope for those of you who feel like medical bills are forcing you to lose an arm and a leg in return for something much smaller.
So, here’s a list of tips on how you can save money when it comes to those daunting medical costs.
How to Save Big on Healthcare
Many people may hesitate to pose this important question to their family doctor or healthcare practitioner: How can I (or, is there a way) to get some kind of discount? You don’t know until you try and these points will hopefully help you get the conversation going.
1. Research the Real Costs
Medical services costs can span a wide range, so familiarizing yourself with the discount that average insurers receive will help you gauge whether your doctor is overcharging. Moreover, you’ll have an idea of how much of a discount you can try to request off. Resources such as Healthcare Bluebook can start your research off with their free fair price search.
2. Avoid Paying via Credit
Credit cards have their time and place but, more often than not, you’ll probably end up paying more than the initial cost of your appointment in interest fees. Paying in cash – this includes chequing accounts – might make your doctor’s office more willing to negotiate a discount because you’re dealing with tangible money. Using cash to cover what you can also helps reduce your reliance on a credit card which is always a good thing if you’re looking to stay out of debt.
3. Be Clear With ‘Keywords’
If it’s possible, discuss the potential for a discount before your medical procedure takes place. It’s okay to outwardly show concern and may help to make your case. You are human after all, so connect with them on a human level. Let them know that, e.g., these bills are expensive and ask for help using terms such as: “Can we possibly make this more affordable?” or “My insurance only covers parts of this treatment so paying out-of-pocket will hurt me (and my family).”
Like the second point, making them aware that you can pay at least a part of it up front in cash will likely make them more willing to cater to your needs.
4. Financial Assistance (for Everyone)
Whether it’s an issue of pride or you are simply unaware, financial assistance opportunities are available to people all over the socioeconomic spectrum. For example, someone who makes a $100,000 a year but doles out $50,000 of it for medical bills means that you may qualify for financial assistance programs.
5. Payment Plans
Sometimes your medical bills will still be a whopping sum even after you’ve negotiated a discount. However, this doesn’t mean the end of saving money. Times when you still have a large amount left over to pay can be an opportunity to ask your doctor about payment plans. These plans are a more long-term approach that could result in the remainder of your medical bill being forgiven, i.e., taken care of so that you no longer need to pay.
Once you’ve been in a payment plan for over six months, you can contact the billing office and make your case. Namely, that you’ve been paying, have paid however much, but still owe more and whether it’s possible to forgive the remaining cost. It’s no guarantee, but you could potentially receive an even larger discount or have the debt forgiven altogether.
6. Remember – Healthcare Is A Service Industry
Medical services aren’t called services for nothing. Like your favorite restaurant, you continue to go there because they engage with and treat you as a person rather than a number. And if you build a good relationship with your healthcare provider, they should want to see you healthy and thriving as opposed to worried and in debt.
A Few More Options
Your doctor isn’t your only option so don’t be afraid to consider other healthcare providers in your area. If you can get more for your money or pay less, you could save a lot in the long-run.
Doctors may suggest or prescribe a new or obscure drug you don’t know about. However, you should ask him if there is a generic drug that will be just as effective. Generic drugs available at places like Wal-Mart or Target also tend to be cheaper.
If you need to take medications consistently and for long periods of time, mail-order medications are especially helpful. Get a ninety-day supply of meds, for example, can be far cheaper than picking them up weekly from the pharmacy.
Having a keen eye and reading through your medical bills very carefully can save you some money, too! The Medical Billing Advocates of America claim that there are errors in about eighty percent of medical bills. This suggests that a number error could result in your paying more than you owe. So, following up with your doctor’s or hospital’s billing department and holding them accountable is in your best interest.
Medical bills can undoubtedly be intimidating when they’re staring you in the face and you don’t know how you’ll pay it off. But try one (or some) of these — you may be able to find the help that you need, or at least reduce the total amount by a little.
*Suggestions on how to save are sourced from the above links