4 Tips on Decreasing Your Medical Bills

Imagine going to the hospital for a heart attack and leaving with a mountainous $170,000 bill in your back pocket. That’s exactly what happened to John Fugazzie the laid-off business executive from New Jersey whose story appeared in the New York Times last fall. If it could happen to Fugazzie, it could happen to anyone: Overwhelming medical bills and little, if any, money to pay them.

If you’re burdened with exorbitant medical bills, keep this in mind: The medical field is a money-making industry. Hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies are in the business to make profit, just like any other business. As such, your bills are negotiable. Consider trying one or more of these tactics to pare down your medical debt:

Enlist Your Doctor’s Help

Most doctors are compassionate people who care about their patients’ well-being. The Hippocratic oath, with its “do no harm” clause, mandates this practice. If you’re drowning in medical debt, or if you’re faced with necessary procedures and medications you can’t afford, let your doctor know. He (or she) might be able to use his clout to negotiate your bills down for you.

According to John Santa, an MD affiliate of Consumer Reports, “if a physician gives the hospital a call . . . and asks them to help (reduce medical debt), they’ll do that.” Santa also remarks that doctors who are aware of their patients’ financial hardships can take other steps to help minimize costs, including the elimination of unnecessary tests and the prescription of generic drugs.

Negotiate Early

When you’re socked with a massive medical bill, your first instinct may be to put off thinking about it. That’s the worst thing you could do, however, as you only have 90 days from the receipt fo the bill to attempt a negotiation. Here are some tactics that have worked for others:

  • Offering to pay cash. If you want to reduce your bill, offer to plunk down a fraction of what you owe in cold, hard cash within 30 days of the bill’s receipt. You could see a reduction in your bill of up to 40 percent.
  • Creating a payment plan. This tactic won’t reduce your bill, but it will give you more time to pay it. Strike up an agreement with your medical provider as to how many months you need to pay off the bill and how much you will pay each month. They’ll be likely to meet you halfway on this because they don’t want to have to hire a collection agency to deal with you.
  • Asking for Medicare rates. Even if you’re not a senior citizen, try asking your provider to bill you at Medicare’s rates. Providers are used to accepting lower payments from patients with Medicare, so why not you? Even if your provider refuses to accept this rate, you can use it as a starting point in your negotiation.

Hire a Professional

If you don’t want to do the negotiating yourself, consider hiring a patient advocate to do the work for you. A professional patient advocate is a person who supports, promotes, and speaks for clients in the midst of stressful medical situations. Make sure you find a professional who is comfortable working around the medical billing system. Patient advocates typically receive a 30 percent cut of the money they save their clients, or a lesser capped amount. For example, PGM Billing Services specializes in working with both physician and patient to ensure the process goes as smooth as possible.

Another option is to hire an attorney. If you feel more comfortable with this option, make sure you don’t have to pay any fees upfront. Your lawyer’s payment will also be about 30 percent of what you save.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a creative way for patients to garner financial support online. The premise is simple: If many people contribute small amounts of cash toward a patients’ medical bill, that bill will be drastically reduced. Popular crowdfunding websites include GoFundMe.com and GiveForward.com. Crowdfunding offers a viable solution for people struggling with mountainous need.

 

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