Medical costs are skyrocketing, which puts families under immense financial strain. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, the most common causes of bankruptcy are medical bills and job loss due to illness. Approximately 3 in 5 bankruptcies were medical in nature. The average family spends roughly 12 percent of their income on medical expenses. It’s clear that there’s a healthcare crisis and millions of lives are at stake.
One of the reasons for the astronomical cost of healthcare is the opaque and complex nature of the healthcare system itself. It’s layer upon layer of bureaucracy. Every component has an associated cost and there’s no way of knowing which ones will be covered by health insurance plans until you receive the bill.
While it’s important to stay on top of your medical bills and to pay them off as soon as you can, your financial situation may limit your ability to do so. Fortunately, there are ways to keep healthcare costs in check. Being proactive and vigilant can even reduce your total bill. From negotiating with billers to changing your medicine, here are a few pointers for saving on medical bills.
Check and double-check the bills
Many of us are familiar with stories of people receiving the wrong medical bills. Some people were charged for medical procedures that never took place, or the hospital staff placed one too many zeroes by accident. A scarier story is the insurance company that refuses to cover a procedure and asks you to pay for everything out-of-pocket.
The first thing you need to do once you receive your medical bills is to check and double-check for accuracy. Your first bill will probably be vague, so make sure to ask for an itemized bill so you know what you’re being charged for. The more detailed the breakdown, the better. That way, you can challenge specific items and get your bill down.
Next, make sure the bill has taken into account your insurance coverage. Any policy-provided discounts and payments should have been deducted first. If you’re not sure, contact your insurance provider and verify the details of your coverage. Make sure to check that you were billed correctly for certain services as well. For instance, one coding mistake could result in a lower insurance payment and higher out-of-pocket costs for you.
Negotiate the bill
A medical bill is still a bill like any other. And if there’s one thing you can do about your bills, it’s negotiating for a better deal. Many people often brush off their medical bills because they’re sick or anxious. However, you need to stay on top of the situation and talk to your billers if you want to reach a resolution.
Ignoring your problems won’t make them go away. In fact, you could make a bad situation even worse. The longer you wait, the more you will have to pay. Some hospitals charge a late fee or interest, which is why you want to pay your bills, even in small amounts.
Talk to the biller and negotiate a payment plan that works for both parties. Most hospitals allow patients to pay in installments, which allows you to manage your finances better. Just think of it as a new bill you have to pay every month. Regular payments also allow you to preserve your credit score.
Ask for a discount
People often make it a point to ask for a discount when shopping, so why not do it for your medical bills? Many hospitals and clinics offer discounts if you pay in cash. However, this technique only works if you have enough cash on hand to pay for your procedures.
Businesses value liquidity above all else, and they can get that from early cash payments. Some doctors will even give you a discount for an old medical bill, so it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you pay your bill early, you could even secure a more lucrative deal. Even a 5 or 10 percent discount off your bill goes a long way to improving your finances.
A medical emergency can bankrupt us, so it’s important to stay ahead of your bills and act quickly. Many people don’t have the luxury of an emergency fund and it could take a person years to fully pay off their bill. Knowing how to prepare for medical expenses puts you in a better situation than most people, so brushing up on the basics can go a long way in securing your finances.