March 1, 2016

How To Negotiate Medical Bills

At DisputeBills, we are here to help our customers avoid obscene medical bills. After our founder’s family was personally affected by outrageous medical bills, we’ve made it our mission to help other families facing similar situations. To get you started, we’ve compiled an easy-to-follow step-by-step process that helps you get a handle on your medical bills before you consider reaching out for professional help. And if the process gets too daunting, we are always here to help!

First, Why Should I Negotiate A Medical Bill?

Here are just a few reasons….
In recent years, it widely has been reported that more than 80 percent of medical bills are entered in error. Shocking, isn’t it? Such a significant rate of error contributes to insurance denials, duplicate and inflated charges, and confusion that represents nearly $270 billion in lost costs annually according to a 2014 Huffington Post article written by consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, Ralph Nader.

Another interesting driver behind the need to negotiate your bills is the disparity between in-network and out-of-network costs, with the ladder sometimes representing charges 1,000 percent more than what’s performed by your in-network providers. In these circumstances, providers are more willing to negotiate, fully knowing that even a reduction in the initially inflated charges may still result in additional revenues.

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4 Ways to Negotiate Your Medical Bills Down

1. Contact the provider for a discount.
When patients cannot afford their bills and make no attempt to pay, medical institutions often will hire collection agencies to collect unpaid debt. However, in many situations, medical offices will offer a discount to patients willing to pay their bill in a timely fashion. It’s a win-win scenario; you get a lower rate, and they get paid in a timely fashion while avoiding collection agency fees, which often are higher than the discount they offer you.
Some offices also will offer a cash payment discount. Credit card companies charge merchants between 2 and 3 percent just to swipe your card, and many offices will pass that discount right on to you, just for asking.
2. Consider a payment plan.
Nearly all medical institutions will offer payment plans with no interest. Depending on the size of the institution, you can extend your payments out from 6 months all the way to several years. The best way to negotiate a plan is to have a realistic understanding of what you can afford prior to making the call. Have a candid conversation with the office about what you realistically can afford and see if they are willing to work with you. Sometimes they will require a larger initial payment, but will take the remaining portion of the bill and spread it out over an agreed upon term.

3. Discuss options once your bills have gone to collection.
One of the most common misconceptions about medical debt is that once it’s gone to collections, it’s too late. It’s never too late to consider your options, and working with the collection agency is not your only option. Once you’ve been contacted by a collection agency, don’t be afraid to call the medical institution directly to see if there is a way to get out of the collections claim. Medical institutions will be happy to hear from you and, assuming they are not locked into a contract with the collection agency, often will work with you to give you a steeper discount than the collection agency can offer.
If working with a collection agency seems to be your best option, don’t forget the value of timely responses. Many agencies will offer a discounted rate, but only if you act fast.

4. Work with a medical advocate.
Before medical bills get out of hand, consider consulting with a medical billing advocate. At DisputeBills, we offer no-risk consultations and don’t charge unless you save money. We take a strategic and holistic approach to your medical debt, identifying places where your bills contain errors or where your insurance company could have covered more. Then, we negotiate on your behalf to get you the best payment possible. With a simple phone call, we save our clients up to 75 percent on their medical bills and help may avoid bankruptcy. Give us a call today and let one of our dedicated medical billing advocates analyze your case.

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Katie Shaykin
About the Author
Katie Shaykin

Katie Shaykin is a freelance writer with nearly a decade of experience writing for the healthcare industry. Shaykin earned her ungraduated degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Illinois State University and spent six years in Corporate America, writing for two industry-leading healthcare and healthcare technology companies.