Lower your medical bills

Whether you’re insured or not, follow these tips to help cut your medical bills down.

Most people don't know that you can pay less for expensive medical services and treatments. In a recent Angie’s List poll, 57 percent of respondents said they had never negotiated a medical bill. Nearly 25 percent said they didn’t even know they had the option. Before you pay full price for your medical expenses, try the following:

Ask first. Before you begin a course of treatment, explain your financial limits to your doctor or the office’s billing manager. Many practices will offer a 10 percent to 30 percent discount or an interest-free payment schedule.

Offer to pay up front. Most doctors would rather get paid something right away than deal with insurance reimbursements or a collections agency, so ask about a discount for paying on the day of service, or in cash.

Put away the plastic. Never charge big medical bills to a credit card. At the very least, you can try to negotiate an interest-free payment plan with your doctor or hospital.

Read your bill carefully. Ask for an itemized bill before paying; mistakes are much more common than you think. Industry estimates are that about 85 percent of medical bills contain errors.

Arm yourself with solid information. If you’re facing an expensive procedure, compare costs and fees locally and find out what Medicare would pay (at hospitalcompare.hhs.gov). Then politely suggest the lowest price to the hospital billing department.

Call in a pro. If your bill could cripple your family financially and you’re unable to negotiate a better deal, try turning to a medical advocate, who can wrangle with your hospital or insurance company for you. Advocates typically charge 25 percent to 35 percent of the amount saved, but it’s a better option than bankruptcy—plus, they’re known to reduce big bills by tens of thousands of dollars. Look for one at healthproponent.com or medicalcostadvocate.com.

See if you can get it for free. Going in for a routine screening or checkup? Many organizations offer free or low cost checkups, see if there is one near you.