Recently we came across an amazing thread on Reddit in which a person describes their incredible reduction in a medical bill. It reads something like this:
Recently, I had to be taken to the emergency room twice. Unfortunately I have terrible insurance so my total bill was a whopping $10,400. Of course I did not have this kind of money laying around for such an expense. Therefore, I call their billing department to explain that my insurance was not covering any of those bills. They immediately changed over my status to “self pay” which cut the bill by around 55%.
Wondering if I could reduce the bill even further through discounts, I asked if there was a discount to pay the bill in full versus a payment plan (it never hurts to ask). To my surprise, they reduced the bill by another 25% totaling $2,400. The two individuals I dealt with were extremely friendly, helpful and easy to deal with. It was simply about asking the right questions. With a simple phone call, I was able to reduce my original bill by almost 77% and it only took 5 minutes.
This is only one method of reducing medical bills over the phone. Most patients are not aware that they can actually negotiate bills over the phone which are based on numerous factors including age, price, income, and insurance type. It is really just about asking the right questions and dealing with someone who is familiar enough with the process to make the right decision. The following is a list of additional methods of reducing your medical bills with a simple phone call:
Identify Common Medical Billing Errors
Medical bills do not purposefully contain errors but mistakes do occur and you must learn how to identify them. All procedures performed by medical personnel have an associated code to bill your insurance company. The problem with medical coding is the average patient has no idea what the codes mean. The following is a cheat sheet of some of these codes:
This is the remaining balance after the insurance company pays. All of the charges could be covered under your policy meaning that you would not have to pay any remaining amounts. Although this is uncommon, it can occur with automated billing processes.
This is much more common than you would think. It occurs when you are billed several times for the same procedure.
This is a situation in which the treatment code does not match the diagnosis and the insurance company denies the claim leaving you entirely liable for the bill.
When services that should be grouped are split and bill separately. This occurs when multiple medical tests are ordered but related to a single medical diagnosis.
Upcoding – medical bills that are improperly charges for different treatments, commonly more expensive, are upcoded. This is most common with name-brand medication being billed as generic.
By learning these coding errors, it can help you better read your medical bills and catch any mistakes that could save your thousands of dollars. It will also help you speak more intelligently about the medical bills when calling the provider’s billing department.
Ask if you qualify for Discounts
As in the story above, always ask if you qualify for discounts. Although here, a discount for paying a portion of the bill in full was asked for, there are numerous other discounts available, many of which are under-the-radar savings that you would never be aware of if you didn’t speak up. For instance, some providers may offer 10% if you pay the bill over the phone. Also, always inquire about the Charity Care Program which can save you large amounts of money if available. Charity Care Programs provide additional savings for those in certain income brackets and who fit certain requirements which differ between providers. Most providers will not tell you about any deals you can make so you must be proactive and ask.
Be Familiar with Healthcare Lingo
By familiarizing yourself with common healthcare lingo, you can better understand the process. Most healthcare and insurance companies are banking on the fact that you know nothing of this jargon, are too intimidated to ask as you do not want to look uneducated and are simply taking their word for it. By accepting the bill at face value, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. If there is a section you do not understand, ask the question as your wallet may thank you later.
Statistics show that most Americans do not read through their entire healthcare plant contract. No knowing these common terms could lead to thousands of dollars in excess medical bills because you were unaware of the coverage. The most common terms include:
Similar to co-pay, co-insurance is the percentage you pay for specific healthcare types. For instance, you may need to pay for 30% of the cost of outpatient surgery. As a result, your insurance would only cover 70% of the total bill.
Co-pay is the specific dollar amount associated with a care type. For instance, for every doctor visit, you may need to pay $25.
The deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket for healthcare prior to your insurance starting to pay. For instance, a $1,000 deductible indicates that you need to pay the first $1,000 before your health insurance covers costs.
In Network versus Out of Network
In Network refers to the providers that your insurance covers and out of network indicates that your insurance does not cover providers who are not in the recommended network. Insurance companies do this to save on costs as they contract with specific groups for group discounts.
Be Firm but Polite
As the old saying goes, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. That is a critical rule to remember when attempting to reduce your medical bills. Being rude will not get any you additional savings. Be polite and persistent will help streamline the negotiating process and make it considerably easier to manage. First, never lose your composure on the phone, remain objective and calm. The biller is taking notes on the entire conversation so clearly communicate your financial situation without emotion.
Second, offer to pay a discounted percentage of the bill up front and hold strong at this point. Third, firmly request for the payment terms to be as long as possible. The standard process is that they will give you a maximum of two years from the original billing date to pay the bill. Third, request an interest free payment plant for the discounted amount.