With hospitals benefiting from a markup of 40 – 50% on services, and many patients not paying at all due to the rising cost of health care, there is plenty of room for negotiation when you find yourself facing a too-high medical bill. With so many outstanding balances carrying over month after month, most hospitals are simply looking to break even with their patients. If you’re looking for ways to strike a compromise regarding your medical bills, take a look at six simple ways to negotiate the high cost of health care.
1. One of the easiest ways to make sure you get the lowest bill possible when submitting to a hospital procedure is to “shop” around for the lowest ICD or CPT code, otherwise known as billing codes or diagnosis codes. They are universal throughout hospitals and insurance companies worldwide. Before going for a procedure, ask your referring physician what the ICD, CPT, or billing code for the procedure will be and call around to local hospitals and find out who has the cheapest rate for the procedure.
2. Don’t be afraid to question your doctor, making sure to ask if the “recommended” procedure is indeed necessary. Often times your doctor will recommend a hospital stay or repeat blood work that may not be necessary, and can save you money by skipping it altogether. Simply asking the question could save you money that you didn’t need to spend.
3. The Health Care Price Transparency Act of 2006 requires hospitals to report information to the public on specific inpatient and outpatient procedures. According to the American Hospital Association 33 states require hospitals to report pricing and 10 more do so voluntarily. It would be good practice to look at a hospitals website to see if they report that information, or by simply calling the hospital to find the information out before checking into the hospital could save you hundreds of dollars.
4. Checking your insurance company’s website can be very useful. Many companies are putting the out of pocket price online for potential policy holders to consider. Though the price listed will likely be the hospital’s highest list price, it could still help you in negotiating or simply knowing what you will need to pay. It is also important to know what your insurance will cover for a said procedure. Your insurance company will negotiate with the hospital for a lower price concerning the procedure for you. Knowing what your insurance will or will not cover can save you money as well. If you know ahead of time that your insurance will not be covering a procedure, often times you can negotiate a lower out of pocket price with the hospital for being a cash paying patient.
5. If you have don’t have health insurance, ask for the hospital’s Medicare rates. This will get you the “cash” price and often times you can negotiate a lower price if you will be paying for the procedure upfront. Most hospitals will reward for paying upfront by lowering the price significantly as this saves them from creating and sending out multiple bills and eventually turning your case over to a collect agency if you don’t pay.
6. After negotiating a lower cost for your procedure and shopping around, be sure to be keenly aware of the cost of incidentals. If there are any toiletries that are not included in your hospital room be sure to bring your own. The hospital charges dearly for that miniature deodorant and that chintzy toothbrush, and bringing your own from home can save you money. Also, ask about bringing your own prescription medications to avoid being charged by the hospital pharmacy for medications that you already have available and have paid for.
Taking these steps to ensure you get the lowest price possible for your health care may seem tedious at times, but the money you save will be well worth the effort. Paying attention to your health care costs will eliminate any surprises that might arrive in your mailbox after the hospital stay or procedure. With the constant rise of health care and health insurance premiums, it is necessary act as your own advocate for your health care costs.