Looking for ways to cut your medical costs? Start by talking to your doctor

January 12, 2011

As out-of-pocket costs continue to rise, paying for care can seem overwhelming. It may be easy to overlook the simplest – and most direct – means of accomplishing this difficult task: negotiating with your doctor. Although this may sound daunting, doctors are aware that out-of-pocket costs are rising and that many people are uninsured, and fully expect questions about costs. In fact, according to one survey, a surprising 61 percent of patients who asked their providers for a discount received one, so don’t be afraid to ask!

To help you prepare for this conversation, The New York Times had Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren of the University of Pennsylvania to answer commonly asked questions about negotiating with your healthcare provider. The Q + A covers a number of issues, such as when to bring the topic of cost reduction up or what homework you should do prior to the appointment. There are many things that you can research, such as the average price of a service, which will give you some leverage in negotiating with providers.

One of the main points to be taken from this Q + A is that doing your own research can go a long way in saving you money. Dr. Kullgren refers to healthcarebluebook.com to help you find average costs of particular services, which you will be able to use as a tool in negotiating a reasonable price with your provider. It is also important to be aware of other opportunities, such as free/low-cost health facilities, which could be a federally-funded center or provided by a university. We post these resources as we find them, but for now, two entries, here and here can help you get started in your efforts to save money.

Here, Stephen Meyers, M.D. offers additional insight on how to approach negotiating costs with your medical providers.


Top 5 Ways to Stay on Top of Your Medical Bills

January 5, 2011

Doctor and hospital bills are routinely rife with errors and inaccuracies – costing you precious money. Save cash and peace of mind with these five tips on monitoring your medical bills, brought to you by The Healthcare Survival Guide: Cost-Saving Options for the Suddenly Unemployed.

1. Be specific when clarifying coverage with your insurer. Before receiving a medical procedure, check with your insurer to be sure what they will and will not cover. Keep detailed records of who you spoke with and when – this information will help you greatly when disputing a billing error.

2. Address billing errors quickly and aggressively. All too often, insurance companies and doctor’s offices issue incorrect bills. Don’t be a victim: insurance companies will often reprocess a claim, saving you money.

3. BYOM – Bring Your Own Medication. Don’t waste money paying for the same drugs at the hospital pharmacy.

4. Ask if you can pay in cash. Many hospitals offer a discount on bills paid in cash rather than check or credit. It never hurts to ask.

5. Opt for a non-teaching hospital, if possible. Community hospitals offer similar care as academic medical centers, and often at a lower cost. Ask your doctor.