3 ways to save money on doctor's bills

3 ways to save money on doctor's bills


1. Ask — Cash (or immediate payment) is king in a medical facility, just as is it is with retailers and service companies. Ask if there’s a discount for upfront payment or a no-interest payment plan. Be sure to follow all applicable health insurance rules.

2. Review all the paperwork — If a bill seems out of line, ask about it. Check around to determine if the bill is in line with what other facilities charge. Call the billing department armed with your information and ask for the lower charge.

3. Call in expert help — Medical billing is so complex that it’s spawned a new industry of professional bill reviewers, sometimes called medical billing advocates. These specialists are trained to look for incorrect billing codes and duplicate charges. Check credentials before you hire, though. Experts say advocates average recovery of 17 to 49 percent and charge an average contingency fee of about 30 percent. Some charge flat fees, as well.

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@jim: Badly worded, but not completely incomprehensible.

"Experts on the subject say that medical billing advocates recover 17-49% of a bill. Their contingency fee averages about 30% of the amount they recover. Some charge flat fees, as well."

17-49% is a range, not an average; it might be 1 standard deviation from the mean, in which case the average would be 33%. The "as well" is also confusing: does it mean that (1) some charge a flat fee in addition to their contingency fee, or (2) instead of it, or (3) some do #1 and some do #2?

Angie, would you mind clarifying?



for someone that does not know medical terms it is very difficult, because before you call medical billing department, you have to know what your asking.



I know how to decode all medical charges, I am a RN expert at this. our bill can be laden with all kinds of false charges.



I can relate to the the man who found many errors on the bill from the birth of his child.
I had a very serious surgery, an 8 hour spinal fusion, hospitalized for a week, off work for 8 months. Although I had great insurance (fortunately), I still received copies of the itemized bills. First, I couldn't believe the number of bills. Every doctor in the room, USE of the room, (separate from the hospital bill!), physical therapists, etc, etc. Second, and worse yet were the amounts! The anesthesiologist alone was $33,000!!!
The hospital bill, all charges broken down line by line in small print, filled 3 pages. Being I didn't have to pay for it, I didn't have to look at it, let alone go through it line by line. I, too, found countless items I was charged for and didn't receive. Maedications, services, and a lot of double charges.
When I contacted the hospital they basically blew me off, acting like it was no big deal. I contacted my insurance company to let them know and they didn't care either, paying the full amount!!
That ordeal taught me how insane the price for health care is, how screwed I'd been without insurance and that insurance companies have their own agendas with medical billing.

B A Dragon


I agree with Mr. Kaplan. So often tests are ordered that will have no effect on care or outcome. They either cover the doctor's rear, or are "routine". My dying husband had another stroke and they wanted to rush him for a CAT scan. He was already terminal!! I said NO and saved several thousand dollars. It would have made no difference in the outcome.

Henry Kaplan


The answer to the question "doctor, please explain how will the results change your decisions about m diagnosis and care" will save more money, discomfort and time than the advice given in your column.



The last part in item #3 is incomprehensible.

Bob Miller


are there retail medical clinics such as CVS available in Cincinnati?



Hospitals usually send a "summarized" bill; call the billing department and ask for an "itemized" bill, showing each item and service you're being billed for. Review it carefully, as billing mistakes are more common than you would believe. Make a list of anything you're not sure about, then call the hospital billing office to question those items. Try not to call at noon or near the end of the workday, though, or else you might get rushed off the phone by someone who just wants to go to lunch or go home for the day.

When our second child was born, I asked for an itemized bill, and found a number of mistakes - including over a thousand dollars for an epidural that she never had. It was neither requested nor ordered, either - the hospital couldn't explain how or why it ended up on our bill.

The worst part of the story is that when I called to question a dozen or more individual line-items on the bill, the woman in the billing office thought it was funny. She laughed and said nobody ever does that - they just pay whatever the hospital charges, without question. That's very sad.



Great article. I was bit in the face by a dog & am horrified by the medical expenses involved even though I have insurance.

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