6 Steps for Lowering Your Medical Bills

Negotiating your medical bills makes more sense than ever, according to Consumer Reports.

Consumers are shouldering the costs of higher deductibles and co-pays and no matter what happens on Capitol Hill, this trend is likely to continue.

Here are some tips:

1. Be proactive. “For planned surgery, make sure your insurer covers the procedure and facility. Tiering (where consumers pay more for certain facilities) is on the rise. Ask your doctor whether everyone ­involved takes your insurance, and ­request a written response; that might help if you later learn that an out-­of-­network provider was used.”

2. Do your research. “Whether you’re negotiating in advance or after you get a bill, websites such as Fair Health and Healthcare Bluebook can help you determine what insurers pay in your area.”

3. Talk to the right person. “If you get a bill, check it to make sure it’s correct. Then ask your ­insurer if some or all will be covered. If not, call the provider who sent the bill. Start with someone in the billing department or patient financial counseling office, but don’t expect that to be your last stop.”

4. Offer to pay cash. “If you can pay most of a bill, offer to do so immediately. Medical advocates say they can often get a 15 to 20 percent ‘prompt pay’ discount this way.”

5. Explain why you can’t pay. “The possibility of not getting paid gives healthcare providers a reason to offer a discount or payment plan (ask that it be interest-free). Some states, such as California, require hospitals to provide free or reduced care to consumers within certain income limits. Ask whether yours does.”

6. Enlist help. “Many hospitals have patient advocates who can help you understand billing codes and pinpoint errors. Hiring a medical advocate is another option, though it can be expensive.”