How to Save on Health Care - Angieslist
With health care reform on the minds of so many decisions makers in government and the health care industry, there’s never been a better bargaining time for patients.
Angie’s List 10 Tips to Save on Health Care:
- The man or woman behind the curtain: Find out what current or past patients are saying about the billing office and general bedside manner of doctors before you even go to the office. Doctors are just now starting to be open to price negotiation. If bargaining is important to you, find a doctor who’s willing to engage rather than one who isn’t.
- Forewarned is forearmed: Check the Angie’s List Healthcare Blue Book tool to determine what insurers in your home town are willing to pay doctors for the treatment you need. Knowing what you should be charged can help you negotiate.
- Cash in king: You may save up to 50 percent of the normal charges if you can pay your medical bill upfront and in cash. You may be charged more if you use a debit or rewards card. Ask about discounts and payment options. Don’t be afraid to bring up the idea of a discount; some doctors will do it if asked, but few are advertising that option. Be sure to follow all applicable health insurance rules.
- Never too late: Even if you didn’t bargain ahead of time, you can still bargain for a better deal once you’ve received treatment. Be honest and up front with the billing agents about what you can pay and when. They may offer you no-interest payment plans or discounts on the service you received.
- Virtual visits: Some doctors offer virtual visits where they “see” their patients online, a convenience that generally cost less than $40. Online medical services often allow patients to schedule appointments, refill prescriptions and even chat live with a doctor. Some insurance cover these visits, but they may be cheaper than an office call, even with insurance. Nearly 90 percent of polled Angie’s List members say they’d use the online services if they were offered.
- Get quotes in writing: If you are price shopping before you have a procedure done, get a signature, name and title to go along with the price quoted.
- Cover every doctor in the room and the facility cost where treatment is given: When getting prices, be sure you cover all fees associated with your procedure, rather than just the surgical costs. (i.e. anesthesiologist, radiologist, facility fee, lab costs, etc.)
- Be polite: Don’t be overly aggressive in seeking a discount. If you cannot afford what you need done, tell your provider. Some medical practices will alert you to payment options, but some may not be actively promoting them. Start with the office clerk you’d normally check out with, but don’t be afraid to ask for a billing manager if you don’t feel like you’re getting a full answer.
- 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.
- 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.