Overwhelming medical debt is the last thing you want to stress about paying when you’re trying to recover from injury or illness. Depending on the situation, and how much is owed, medical bills can quickly add up and become difficult to afford. Yet, they still need to be paid.
What can you do to ease the financial burden of medical bills? Fortunately, there are steps you can take. In this article, we’ll discuss how to negotiate your medical debt down.
Prior to Treatment
Before the start of your treatment, if possible, begin your negotiating then. Try the following steps:
- Check into programs available to you locally or through your hospital or doctor’s office. Often, there are programs put in place to assist those who would experience an undue burden with medical bills. Medicaid might be the first step to medical coverage; Typically, there are social workers available to help you navigate this.
- Speak with your doctor or hospital to assess what payment options may be available to you. Doing this can give you an idea of what you can expect to pay and allow you to place a payment plan that you can afford and that the medical provider approves.
- Ask in advance if there are any discounts available. If so, be sure to get a written agreement or record of the discount for later.
Things are always easier when you address them prior to them becoming a problem. After your treatment, if you receive a bill that you’ll have trouble affording, contact your medical provider right away. Doing this before you make payments or are sent to collections will give you the upper hand in negotiations and give you time to work out a payment plan.
Thoroughly Check for Errors
Medical billing errors are incredibly common, and catching errors can be difficult. Some of the errors you can experience are:
- Upcoding - Upcoding is where you are billed for a similar, more expensive treatment, which isn’t necessarily the one you received. This error can also happen in drug billing, where generic drugs are billed as their more expensive name-brand counterparts.
- Incorrect Codes - There are thousands of medical billing codes, which makes error almost inevitable. Take the time to comb through your bill and match up codes. You can pull up codes and their descriptions with a quick Google search. Doing this could save you some money when something needs to be corrected.
- Duplicate Coding - Accidental duplicate coding happens more than you’d think. Often, this happens because treatment will be both billed under one bundled code and separately; This results in your being double charged.
Offer to Pay in Cash
If you have any cash saved, offer to pay your bill in this manner. This can be enticing to medical providers because it saves them in fees and can close out your bill. Ask if there are any discounts if you pay in cash all at once.
Act as Your Own Insurance Agent
If you’re receiving medical care outside of having an insurance plan, it’s important that you act as your own insurance advocate. Insurance billing departments negotiate lower payments every day based on standard and fair market pricing. The first billing amount sent out by a medical provider is almost never initially accepted, it’s simply a start to negotiation. When you don’t have insurance, you can act as your own billing department. Familiarize yourself with what the fair market price on your medical services is, then contact your medical provider to request the pricing be lowered. This may take a little time, and some back and forth, but it’s usually worth it.
Speak with a Patient Advocate
If you need help in negotiating prices or payment plans, there are people known as patient advocates that can help. Typically, there is a fee involved, but often it can be much lower than the amount that you can save in negotiations. One of the foundations you contact is the Patient Advocate Foundation.