Negotiate Your Medical Bill

After going to all of the resources listed on our page you still have one more option in your playbook to help you pay your medical bill, negotiate!  

The first thing you need to do is get an itemized copy of your bill.  Review the bill carefully.  You would be very surprised to know that a significant portion of hospital bills have major errors in them.  

Common errors include billing for services, procedures, and medications medications that you did not receive; billing twice for the same service, proceedure or medication and being billed for more hours or days than you were in the hospital.  

Once you are comfortable that the bill is accurate your next step is to meet with a representative and negotiate the bill and set up a payment schedule that you can afford.

If you don’t ask it will not get reduced, so if you are uninsured or under-insured ask your doctor or hospital to please reduce it.

Even if you have never done anything like this before, it does not mean that you shouldn’t and cannot ask.  Just suck it up and decide to go forward and ask for help.  Asking for financial help does take some nerve, but it can be worth it.

When you do ask, don’t feel as if you are unfair to the doctor or the hospital.  In reality, the cost of medical procedures, a doctor’s time, and hospital services are not set in stone. The person sitting next to you might be having the same procedure, but most likely they are paying a different amount than you are being asked to pay.

A doctor and hospital’s costs are not fixed, like when you walk into a supermarket where the price is affixed to the item, everyone is paying the same price and it is not negotiable.  

The truth is that when it comes to medical care, different people get charged different rates and your rate can be negotiated. 

Think about this; your insurance company is not paying the ticket price; they only pay a negotiated price.  So, why shouldn’t you do the same thing?

There are some tricks you should consider using when you do enter into a negotiation with your doctor or hospital. 

1.  Go into the negotiation with a positive attitude. Fifty percent of people who request a reduced price get a reduced price.  So, your odds are good, but you have to ask.

2.  Make sure that you talk to the right person and make your conversations be a face-to-face conversation. Never rely on email, a phone call or a letter. Usually, it is best to talk directly to your doctor or the Billing Manager. 

If the Billing Manager says no, ask that they speak with the doctor before making a decision.  If it is still no, go back and ask the doctor again.

3. Remember the wise adage - Honey catches the bee, not vinegar.  Always be polite and deferential. Overwhelm them with kindness. Ask for their personal help, tell them that you are relying on their understanding and compassion.

4.  Don’t give up. No is not an answer that you should just accept.  Lower level individuals often don’t know the policies, so work your way up the ladder until you get the right response.  Keep going until you get a yes.

5.  Go into all your meetings prepared. Find a copy of the hospital’s free and discounted care policy.  Find out what insurance would be responsible to pay and ask to pay less, but accept the same number that the insurance company will pay.  That is fair to all.

The American Hospital Association has a Billing and Collections Practices Policy where their 4,200 hospitals have agreed to a.) Assist patients who can’t pay for all or part of their care, b.) Make these policies accessible and written in clear language. 

Get a copy of this policy by clicking here and bring the policy with you to share with the person you are meeting. 

6.  Contact your State Attorney General. Non-Profit Hospitals are often required to assist people in need.  If your non-profit hospital is not living up to this commitment, reach out to your State Attorney General and ask for their assistance. (Find your State AG here).

7.  An excellent negotiating scheme is to offer to pay part of the price upfront.  Use an upfront payment as a chip to bring down the overall bill.  Billing departments like cash in hand, so use this trick.

8. Reach a final agreement?  Get it in writing.