The 5 Best Ways to Reduce Medical Bills

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Maybe it will be something fairly minor, such as tearing a ligament while playing basketball. Maybe it will be more significant, like falling off of a roof or having a heart attack. Whatever the cause, chances are that you will face large, unexpected medical bills at some point during your life. While loans and other financing options may help you cover some of the costs, there are also ways of lowering your bill to make those payments easier.

Here are the 5 best ways to reduce medical bills when you are not covered by insurance:

1. Get A Head Start

Start getting ready for your bill while you’re still in that hospital bed. While this may have been an unplanned trip to the emergency room, you can still prepare yourself before check out. Be proactive— talk to your doctor and being honest about what you can or cannot afford. Many times, your doctor will work with you to see that you get the care you need at a price you can afford.

Another way to get ahead is to offer upfront payments. Even if you can’t cover the entire amount, paying for part of the service up front may allow some flexibility or leniency in the overall payment. Be sure to ask about your options.

2. Check for Errors

Once your bill arrives, the first thing you want to do is check for errors. Eight in ten medical bills contain some type of mistake, sometimes adding up to hundreds, or possibly even thousands, of dollars. Payments often come lumped together, so you may need to ask for your bill to be itemized. This information must be provided to you at your request, so make sure you ask.

Look for common and easily-missed oversights, such as duplicate billing (being charged twice for the same expense) or unbundling (individually changing tests or services that are normally combined) can quickly add hundreds of dollars to your bill.

Also, ask questions about your medical bill. Did you receive all of the services listed? Were you billed for a single room when you actually shared with a roommate? Did they miss a decimal and charge you $250 for a bowl of soup? A few quick checks on your part may be well worth your time.

If you don’t feel comfortable examining this information on your own, hire a medical bill advocate. These companies specialize in examining medical records and finding discrepancies. The best part is that many of these agencies work for a percentage of your savings, meaning that they are committed to lowering your bill as much as possible.

3. Negotiate your Bill

Even if your bill is correct, you may still be able to find some wiggle room by negotiating with the hospital or collection agency. Especially in situations where it seems that a patient will not be able to pay in full, agencies will often take a discounted sum in order to ensure receiving something.

Just like the bill advocates that search for errors, there are also specialized medical bill negotiators who will work to shave down your costs. Once again, they will take a portion of your savings, but it may be worth considering if you think the payoff will be big enough.

4. Rethink Your Medication

Care costs are often driven by medications. Whether it’s painkillers for your torn shoulder muscle or a cholesterol inhibitor for your heart, you may find yourself surprised by the price of those pills.

The good news is that there are several options for cutting down your medication costs. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if a generic counterpart for a name brand drug will work. At each trip to see your doctor, inquire about free samples of the prescribed medication.

Another option that many people do not consider is that cutting pills can also cut costs. Often, a higher dosage of medication will cost the same amount as a lower dosage. If your doctor approves, you may be able to order medication that is twice as strong and then cut the pill in half, essentially cutting your bill in half in the process.

5. Request CrowdFunding

While the majority of this list is about finding ways to lower costs, it makes sense to mention crowd sourcing because, unlike loans or payment plans, you do not pay out of pocket. Logging on to a site such as GiveForward or GoFundMe maybe all it takes to get part, or even the entirety, of your bill paid.

It’s important not to try to go too big with these endeavors. A look into the current landscape of medical crowd funding shows that more than 75% of requests are less than $1000. Still, if you are in a sticky situation, asking others to pay part of your bill while you also work to lower your payments can supplement, even if not completely replace, your payment methods.

The bottom line is that health care costs money, and that money has to come from somewhere. But it’s also true that mistakes, oversights, and wasteful spending can add several hundred dollars to your bill. If you have questions about the options that are available to you, consider taking a list of options and concerns to your doctor. Very likely, you will be able to reduce your payments and make your financial recovery as successful as your physical recovery.

Anum Yoon is a personal finance writer who is dedicated to sharing her insights on money management with others. She believes that a greener, energy-efficient lifestyle is the key to living a more fulfilling life. When she's not typing away on her keyboard, you can find her poring over a new recipe she found on Pinterest or at the power rack in her gym.

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