Negotiating Medical Bills

For many individuals and families, paying for medical bills is difficult. Even if you have a good insurance plan, you will still have to pay premiums and copayments out of pocket.

These costs can quickly add up, especially if you have any preexisting medical conditions. Even paying for one complex medical procedure can be very overwhelming. If you are having trouble with medical costs, one of the simplest solutions is to try and negotiate for a lower bill.

Negotiating medical bills can be difficult if you are unsure of what your options are for decreasing your current payment. There are several paths you can take to ensure you are making reasonable and affordable payments for your health care procedures. You can either speak with someone in the billing department directly or you can seek out discounts to be applied to future procedures. Whether you decide to seek out a discount, set up a payment plan or learn medical jargon, these tips will allow you to negotiate any medical bills you have to pay in the future.

Become Familiar with Health Care Terms and Coding

One of the easiest ways to negotiate your medical bill is to learn the difference between medical codes used on your bill. Every health care procedure has a corresponding code used on medical bills to indicate what each individual procedure is and how much it costs. While it is rare for the wrong code to be used, you may find the code can be adjusted slightly to bring down the cost of the procedure you have had. You may be charged for a more expensive treatment than the one you received and becoming familiar with health care codes can help you to catch these mistakes before you begin to pay your bill. You may also find you were charged for a service you never actually requested and did not even know was technically an option.

Additionally, you may find more common errors on your medical bill once you have begun to comb through it prior to payment. Medical billing offices may not bundle procedures that should be grouped together, which can increase your overall payment if you do not request to have the individual items bundled properly. These offices may accidentally charge you multiple times for the same service as well, so be sure to look over your medical bill for any duplicate charges before you proceed with negotiation.

You may also find it useful to review your bill for any discrepancies prior to settling your payment or speaking to a representative to resolve outstanding issues. Becoming familiar with what your deductible and copay amounts are will help you to determine whether the right number is accurately reflected on your bill. If you know your copay for a regular visit to your doctor is $15 and your medical bill states you need to pay $25, you will need to speak with someone in the billing department to resolve this issue. Knowing what your insurance covers is the first step toward understanding the breakdown of your medical bill. Once you understand what you are being charged for and why, you will be able to negotiate better with an increased awareness and knowledge of what your bill contains.

Determine if Discounts are Available

When you are negotiating your medical bill before or after you have received it, you can ask your health care provider about potential discounts you can use to save money. Certain hospitals and medical networks will offer various discounts, such as a discount for paying your bill over the phone versus paying your bill online. Additionally, you may be able to save even further by enrolling in a charity care program through your health care provider or physician program. A charity care program provides qualified applicants with a significant discount on medical procedures. Often, your health care provider will not readily provide you with discount options. You will need to ask the office directly what is being offered through your specific health care plan to determine if you qualify for a discount on any outstanding medical bills.

Negotiate in Person to Achieve Better Results

If you need to negotiate your medical bill, doing so in person may increase your chances of receiving the results you desire. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to speak with a representative from the medical billing office. Even when you do, you may find it challenging to negotiate a problematic medical bill. To ensure you are seeing positive results you should visit the medical billing office for your health care provider to see if there is someone who specifically handles medical billing. If you speak to someone in a polite tone, you can find potential ways to lower your payment through medical code correction. Individuals who are employed through the medical billing office will be more familiar with the lengthy variety of medical codes and may be able to help adjust the code to deduct money from your bill.

Additionally, when you are negotiating in person you can convey to the individual you are speaking to that you may need to set up a payment plan to be able to pay the full amount. Several health care providers will offer patients up to two years to pay off an outstanding medical bill. When you are setting up a payment plan, be sure to select an amount you can comfortably pay per month until the balance has been paid in full. You may end up creating more trouble with yourself if you agree to a payment plan for an amount higher than what you can reasonably pay. You can amass late fees or interest on your payments if you are unable to make your payments on time for the agreed upon amount. In addition, it will be much harder to set up any future payment plans with your doctor if you were unable to pay the first one. Discussing payment plan options in person will help you to negotiate properly with a representative from the medical billing office and will allow you to pay what you can when you can. You can request a payment plan option over the phone as well if you are unable to transport yourself to and from the medical billing office location.

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