Negotiate for medical or hospital bill forgiveness.
Hospitals, doctors, dentists and healthcare providers provide medical as well as hospital bill forgiveness programs to low-income families. There is assistance for low-income families, people with no money or that lack insurance or that are on Medicaid and others. Find how to negotiate in order to get a hospital or medical bill forgiven below or to get a discount.
Financial assistance is provided by most hospitals or medical offices as part of their charity care programs. Patients do need to inquire and ask though, and learn the steps to take to negotiate both medical expenses and hospital bills. Also note that in general only low income and/or struggling families will get the ability to enter into hospital bill forgiveness hardship programs. What follows are tips to help you negotiate to lower your bills.
What is a medical bill negotiation?
While medical debt forgiveness or relief is only for some low-income or prior patients, anyone can negotiate a medical bill to ask for a discount or relief. It does not take any experience to do this. It is not just insurance companies that can negotiate health care or hospital costs or say the price of a surgery. People just need to be willing to ask for medical bill forgiveness plans and maybe enter into negotiations with their medical provider.
While many people find it common to negotiate with a car salesperson or a real estate agent, who you will probably never see again after the sale, it is not as common, and arguably more awkward, to negotiate with a doctor, surgeon or medical professional. There may be many reasons for this. Most patients trust their provider to make you well and provide ongoing health care for your family. That is why some people turn to a professional, such as a negotiator or some other third party to get hospital bills forgiven.
How to get hospital bill or medical debt forgiveness
Know what the treatment you need really costs - To begin a discussion with a healthcare provider about the cost of the treatment that you need, you need to know what a reasonable figure for the medical treatment looks like. You can start with your health insurance company's website. Most carriers publish their negotiated rates for hospital, doctors, and other provides.
- Or look into the websites that bring transparency to medical care or hospital services. It can also help to look at the websites of services such as Healthcare Bluebook and New Choice Health. They publish the prices quoted for dozens of different treatments, surgery and care options. It does this by different hospitals in every part of the country.
- You can find out how much local hospitals and medical practitioners charge, and what kind of discount insurance companies receive on those rates. You can negotiate much more effectively with your healthcare provider to get hospital debt forgiveness when you have a number to start with. Find more on determining price of medical treatment.
Say the right things when asking for a discount or forgiveness plan - Once you obtain reference pricing information from pricing websites, you need to talk to the person at the hospital or doctor’s office who is in charge of patient accounts or billing. You need to negotiate with them before you receive treatment.
- All you need to do is to tell them that you are unable to afford their prices, and would appreciate a discount on your medical treatment(s). If you have additional reasons why the hospital should cut you a break, you should mention them. Ask for charity care or medical bill relief. It could be that your insurance provider has denied you coverage for the treatment you need, that you've recently lost your job, or that you've simply heard great things about a certain doctor, and would like to be able to have them treat you if you could only afford it.
- Often, if you've had health insurance (whether a private or government policy) for a long time, but have recently lost your coverage, you can explain the situation to the person in charge of billing and payment plans at the hospital. Negotiate and ask them if they would consider giving you the same rate that you got when you had coverage.
- In some cases, hospitals have financial assistance or charity programs to pay for surgery, prescription drugs, or other medical treatments. While these are usually for people who struggle with poverty, you may try to ask for these or negotiate for them in order to qualify if you have unusually large medical bills for your salary.
Ask for discounts on hospital or medical bills if you prepay a portion of it, or maybe even the entire bill, up front. Healthcare consultants say that most medical professionals will knock 5 or 10 percent, or more, off your bill if you pay up front as it helps them with their cash flow. It also helps reduce the costs incurred by the provider in collections as well as administration of the account.
If you do not have health insurance, you can get significantly bigger discounts on your medical bills and hospital stay expenses or other treatment if you ask for a price break or charity medical care up front. Studies show that in general, patients can save at minimum 50% for procedures that hospitals, dentists and doctors bill to health insurance plans.
- How and why is this? It is because medical practitioners and doctors are used to getting paid less than full price from those health insurance companies. This is even applicable to low income families that are enrolled in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
So the reason you can save 50% or more is that the discounted rate that medical professionals give a patient on their bills is still far better than what an insurance company is paying them for the service. Learn what medical professionals typically bill for their services and how much insurers will reimburse them at Patient Advocate Foundation. If you know the cost, you can negotiate the price before you see the doctor.
You need to ask for a price break before the medical procedure, not after the bill comes in. Indicate you are low income or struggle, and you that fact as a negotiating tactic. Many doctors, hospital billing offices or surgeons may offer a discount on the fee, as they want to get paid some money from a low-income family. However this type of negotiation needs to be done before the surgery or health care services are provided to the patient.
Ask for outpatient treatment - Some types of surgery come with the requirement that you stay in hospital. These options are cheaper and are more likely to be waived over time. With others, like knee surgery, you have the option of getting surgery done at the outpatient center or clinic. You can save thousands of dollars simply by opting to get your surgery done as an outpatient and skipping the hospital room.
Ask for a major discount on your medical bills in return for immediate payment - If you've already been treated, and have just received large bills, you can call the billing department and start with a bold request. You can offer, for instance, to pay 40 percent of the bill immediately, if they will write off the res and if the hospital has debt forgiveness for the balance. If the hospital rejects your offer, they may still come up with an attractive offer of their own.
- If you are offered nothing more than a 20 percent discount, you can ask to talk to a higher authority, like the customer service manager, billing team supervisor, or vice president of finance. Each person that you call should get to hear your story so that they can relate to why you need help. If they make a promise to help you, you want to make sure that you have their name and title, and ask if you can get their offer in writing.
Ask for a payment plan on medical bills or debts - If the bill that you're left with after all the negotiations is still too large for you to manage, you can ask the hospital or doctor office if they will put you on a plan where you pay a fixed installment each month to get the balance of the hospital bill written off. When you get on an installment plan, you can call them after a few months, and ask them if they would mind forgiving the rest of your bill in light of the fact that you've been regular with your payments.
Receive your health insurer's approval - After you have settled on a hospital or doctor or clinic to use, if you have health insurance be sure to contact your insurer to get pre-approval for the medical care that you need. If you do not do this the insurer will probably refuse to pay the bill and the patient’s ability to negotiate a discount is limited. Also, be sure to as at that time how much your insurer will cover.
- Some billing experts and medical advocates will strongly recommend that you have your doctor detail both the procedure you need as well as any pre- and post-care follow up that you may need, in writing, so that you can present this to the health insurer. You should always keep records for your file as well, along with copies of bills and all other communication as an issue may arise at a later date.
Call in a professional negotiator to get a hospital bill forgiveness plan - If the hospital doesn't seem open to negotiating with you, you can contact a professional medical billing advocate, attorney, or use a thirst party provider. Low-income families can often get free negotiating from a volunteer lawyer. Organizations such as Mediliminal help patients negotiate with their hospitals in return for a percentage of the savings achieved.
- The fact is that some people just will never feel comfortable in taking this approach of negotiating on their own. Even when they realize the savings they can get, it may be intimidating to many individuals. So if you are not comfortable in negotiating yourself, then use the services of a medical bill negotiator, which usually work on a contingency basis. So this means that negotiators are in effect free unless they save you money.
- Doctor care as well as hospitals often charge very high markups on their services, and can usually afford to offer discounts to those who find it hard to pay. You only need to make an effort to present your case to the hospital and ask for help.
Negotiating can help in dealing with health insurance companies as well. If your policy only pays for some of the medical or dental bill that was charged for the care, the patient can contest this decision. If you have no money, it makes the outcome more favorable. There are consumer advocates, doctors, mediators as well as other professionals that will negotiate an appeal and help you enter into a medical debt forgiveness plan. More on help with health insurance claim appeals.
Additional assistance for negotiating hospital bills
When someone is dealing with a hospital, the negotiating process may be slightly hospitals are public entities, non-profits that are partially government funded or part of larger networks. Many of them also receive federal government funds, so they need to offer various payment plans, discounts or hospital bill forgiveness programs to the low-income, and other aid for those patients who are willing to negotiate.
Research the hospital costs (per above) - Your insurance company Web sites will probably be able to tell you what many area hospitals charge insurers, which can be the basis for your care. This is true for those people that have limited insurance coverage or those that do not even if you do not have health insurance. Or you can use websites like healthcarebluebook.com in order to get pricing data.
- How this works is if you have health insurance and if your policy determines that you need to pay a percentage of the bill, then the insurance provider will cover the balance. They pre-negotiate these costs with medical facilities. The goal is to get the same rate that an insurance provider is given. Also, patients should always search for the least expensive hospital that will also lower the amount that you need to pay, and they can do that from using sites such as those listed above.
- If you do not have health insurance and are uninsured, you can get similar pricing data from for-profit companies and then you can use that pricing data to negotiate with a hospital. When you get that pricing data, you should never pay more than that. The key is to do the research and to negotiate.
Communicate with your doctor or primary care physician before going to the hospital. You should always ask to determine whether it is safe to delay the procedure or medical treatment. Consider also future health insurance needs. For example, a delay for a service, if of course approved by your doctor, is a very good idea if your spouse or you are in line for a job that will provide better health coverage or maybe cover a certain medical procedure. A delay may also be ideal if you have maxed out your flexible spending account for the year and want to carry over into the following year.
Do you need extensive service and is a hospital trip even necessary? There are alternatives to a hospital visit that can save you a lot of money on your bills. Consider having some procedures and tests, such as colonoscopies, CT scans, and MRIs done in independent centers or clinics. Depending on the need, some of these can save hundreds or thousands of dollars on your bills.
Consider the hospital deductible and factor it in - Most stays in a hospital will usually have their own deductible, and some may be $1,000 or more. This is separate from the deductible you will need to pay for outpatient care or attention. Note this expense tends to not be negotiable.
- Most hospitals and medical providers will ask for the deductible and any other patient share of the bill on or before any service they provide to you. That is the time when negotiating it may save you money. While you will not always need to pay the deductible or your share of the hospital bill immediately, you will need to come up with and agree upon a plan of action to pay it off.
- A great option is to ask the hospital for a no-interest rate payment program, and many do offer this. Or ask for any other charity care they may offer a struggling family to help pay medical bills or cover the surgery. A key is to pay off your bills, and the principal, before any interest is charged.
- If you have limited income, no health insurance, the bill is too high, or are struggling, hospitals often times will be able to discount your deductible, coinsurance, or co-pay for the medical care. This will be an option for people that qualify for assistance under their criteria. But you need to ask about these discounts and programs up front as a negotiating approach. Also feel free to negotiate this reduced rate as well, as it is an option. Find out how to settle medical debts.
Ensure you receive an itemized statement of your hospital bill to negotiate - Unfortunately the health insurer company, even Medicaid, usually gets more specific cost information and a copy of the itemized bill. Insured patients will usually just get a summarized billing statement. You can request, and are entitled to, an itemized bill as well. Review it closely to find issue, errors on the hospital or doctor bill, or items that can be negotiated or waived.
- The reason to do this is numerous studies show that almost 90% hospital bills have errors on them. Errors vary widely and can include decimal points, insurance coverage, care on days you weren't in the hospital, and charges for procedures not completed. Find how to discover medical billing errors.
Conclusion on asking for bills to be waived, medical or hospital debt forgiveness and to save money
The bottom line is it is possible to negotiate medical bills, doctor costs, hospital debts and even the price of dental exams. In fact, it is even becoming more common these days. Medical providers are more likely to offer payment plans, discounts, or debt forgiveness to low-income families who negotiate as it helps the doctor/hospital get some money from the patient and avoid bad PR.
It is possible to negotiate medical bills and really so much more in life. Learn how to negotiate savings for other items. Find a list of money saving tips. You can save on insurance, credit cards, prescription drugs, and other expenses in addition to medical bills.
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