Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tips for Managing Medical Bills

Tips for Managing Medical Bills

Individuals with medical bills should educate themselves on their exact insurance coverage and learn the skill of negotiation for medical services. Medical bills, like other bills, can quickly become overwhelming, making it crucial to take control before they affect the quality of your life. Tricks that many people are unaware of can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.


    People are accustomed to negotiating with insurance companies, car salesmen and real estate agents. However, most individuals do not consider negotiating medical services. All it takes is asking the right person, such as the office manager, who then identifies the person in charge of the billing. Visit the hospital and ask to speak with the chief financial officer. A conversation with him could potentially save you 30 percent of your bill total. Of course, it is up to the CFO to decide on the amount they or the billing office is willing to discount. Only an estimated 30 percent of Americans have tried negotiating medical bills, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Out of the 30 percent, an estimated 93 percent have successfully negotiated a lower bill.

Low-cost Treatments

    A large percentage of physicians --- about 80 percent --- prescribe generic medications to save patients money. However, a much smaller percentage of physicians consider economy when recommending a diagnostic test or treatment. It is especially crucial to ask physicians for low-cost treatment opportunities when money is an issue to start with. Just ask nicely. Ear infections, pinkeye and other minor health ailments can be treated with over the counter medications that are already reasonably priced with no negotiation or expensive procedures necessary.

Errors and Insurance Payments

    Look over medical bills for any errors on a statement. Examine charges for any double billing on items or treatments that have been received, and check that the correct charges were billed for each item. Report any errors to the hospital billing management and insurance provider. Ask questions to clarify charges you are unsure about. Go over each item on the bill with your insurance provider to confirm the insurance portion of the bill has been paid. At times, individuals will receive a bill at full price because the insurance payment has not yet been paid or processed.

Make a Budget

    Before committing to a medical bill payment agreement, be sure it fits your budget. Your budget must be able to cover your mortgage or rent, utility bills, food and other necessities, and then the remaining money in the budget can go toward the medical bills. This precaution should be taken to avoid larger financial problems, such as disconnection of utilities or even losing your home.

Pay with Cash

    Paying with cash is mutually beneficial to the individual in debt and the medical establishment. Paying with cash eliminates the credit card interest rates, which end up costing you more money on top of the medical bills. It also saves hospitals from paying credit card transaction fees. Steer away from paying medical bills with a home equity loan, as this can jeopardize the stability of your home. Paying with credit is not really paying the bill; it is just transferring the debt to your credit cards. Obtain and save all receipts for payments paid in cash.


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