negotiate lower medical bills

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Whether we want them or not, visits to the hospital or doctor’s are almost inevitable. Be it a broken bone, surgery, or a simple checkup; one time or another in your life, you will have to seek health care.

But what happens when you get that unexpectedly large bill in the mail months later? When faced with a bill that you won’t or can’t pay, the easiest thing to do is ignore it; however, doing that can lead to long lasting consequences.

The first thing you should do is attempt to negotiate the bill with your healthcare or insurance provider. According to Andrew Cohen, medical debt resolution program manager at The Access Project, most don’t view negotiating as a viable option. He says, “People often don’t realize medical bills tend to be eminently negotiable.”

Reasons to negotiate include

Avoiding Medical collections

Once a bill reaches collections, it can be reported by the debt collector to credit bureaus, negatively impacting your credit score and making it harder to get credit from potential lenders. The credit bureau Experian confirmed that as of last year, over 64 million consumers had a medical collection on their credit report.

You can usually win

93%of people who tried negotiating a lower medical bill were successful at least once. Click To Tweet

Greg Voelm, the owner of a health care testing company in Sacramento, California and a 35-year veteran of the healthcare industry, expresses a belief that negotiating can lead to reductions of as much as 80%.

Want to negotiate your medical bills but don’t know how? Here are 4 ways to negotiate lower medical bills:

1. Contact the provider for a discount.
When patients cannot afford their bills and make no attempt to pay, medical institutions often will hire collection agencies to collect unpaid debt. However, in many situations, medical offices will offer a discount to patients willing to pay their bill in a timely fashion. It’s a win-win scenario; you get a lower rate, and they get paid in a timely fashion while avoiding collection agency fees, which often are higher than the discount they offer you.

Some offices will offer a cash payment discount. Credit card companies charge merchants between 2 and 3 percent just to swipe your card, and many offices will pass that discount right on to you, just for asking.

2. Consider a payment plan.
Nearly all medical institutions will offer payment plans with no interest. Depending on the size of the institution, you can extend your payments out from 6 months all the way to several years. The best way to negotiate a plan is to have a realistic understanding of what you can afford prior to making the call. Have a candid conversation with the office about what you realistically can afford and see if they are willing to work with you. Sometimes they will require a larger initial payment, but will take the remaining portion of the bill and spread it out over an agreed upon term.

3. Discuss options once your bills have gone to collection.

One of the most common misconceptions about medical debt is that once it’s gone to collections, it’s too late. Click To Tweet

It’s never too late to consider your options, and working with the collection agency is not your only option. Once you’ve been contacted by a collection agency, don’t be afraid to call the medical institution directly to see if there is a way to get out of the collections claim. Medical institutions will be happy to hear from you and, assuming they are not locked into a contract with the collection agency, often will work with you to give you a steeper discount than the collection agency can offer.

If working with a collection agency seems to be your best option, don’t forget the value of timely responses. Many agencies will offer a discounted rate, but only if you act fast.

4. Work with a medical advocate.
Before medical bills get out of hand, consider consulting with a medical billing advocate. DisputeBills offers no-risk consultations and don’t charge unless you save money. They take a strategic and holistic approach to your medical debt, identifying places where your bills contain errors or where your insurance company could have covered more. Then, they negotiate on your behalf to get you the best payment possible. They can save you up to 75 percent on medical bills and may help avoid bankruptcy. If interested call today and speak to one of their medical billing advocates.

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Created by nationally recognized millennial money expert Tonya Rapley, My Fab Finance is a leading financial education and lifestyle blog for millennials who want to become financially free and do more of what they love.