5 Strategies For Reducing Medical Bills
Over the last decade, out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures have risen by 54%, according to one 2018 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. These costs increased by 11% in just 2017 alone—far outpacing the rate at which medical insurer's cover the cost of health care.
This means that consumers in 2019 are facing out-of-pocket health expenses like never before. Higher deductibles and less coverage have seemingly been the trend of the last several years, and the American consumer is feeling it. In a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the New York Times in 2016, 58% of participants responded that they had been contacted by debt collection agencies regarding their medical bills. Even worse, 11% claimed to have filed for bankruptcy as a result of their staggering medical debt.
In light of this, it's worth checking out what you can do to reduce your medical bills. In an age of soaring premiums and climbing deductibles, it's important that you take control of your medical finances so you can maximize your savings and decrease your healthcare expenditures.
This guide covers ten of the most effective strategies for lowering the cost of your medical bills. Keeping this information in mind can help you stop overpaying for your medical services and take back your healthcare finances.
1. Check Your Bill for Errors
The first step to reducing your medical bills is knowing what you are looking for. Make sure that you receive an itemized bill in the mail. These bills delineate in detail the charges you incurred for each of your medical procedures. In this regard, they contain greater utility than the explanation of benefits (EOB) you generally receive in the mail. If your medical bill omits key information regarding charges incurred, contact your healthcare facility and ask for an itemized bill.
Once you have received this bill, review it carefully. Did you actually receive every procedure listed? If so, is the cost what you were promised beforehand? Additionally, look out for billing errors when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Often, healthcare billers make the mistake of charging individuals for name-brand drugs instead of generic drugs.
A few of the most common billing errors to look out for are:
2. Learn to Negotiate
- Duplicate billing: One of the most common billing errors, duplicate billing occurs when you are charged multiple times for the same procedure (say, for instance that you order two CAT scans but are charged for four).
- Mismatched coding: Mismatched coding occurs when the treatment billed to you does not match your diagnosis.
- Upcoding: Upcoding involves consumers being charged with a different (often more expensive) treatment or medication.
- Unbundling: Sometimes, medical packages are split by procedure and billed separately for a higher price. Without careful inspection, you may not notice that your services have been unbundled.
Understanding these common billing errors can help you dispute inaccurate charges and reduce the cost of your medical bills.
Want to reduce your medical bills? Don't be shy. One of the best ways to lower your healthcare costs is to negotiate with your doctor prior to receiving treatment. Be upfront. Your doctor already knows the projected cost of your treatment, and there's no harm in asking him how much you will be expected to pay.
When you receive your estimate, don't just accept it outright. Instead, work with your doctor or healthcare provider to see if you can haggle it down. Often, you can cut a deal with your healthcare provider if you simply ask. Setting up payment plans or promising to pay in cash may help to lower your costs,
but these aren't your only options. Speak with your healthcare provider to see if they offer any unique savings options for people in your situation.
3. Enroll in a Health Savings Account (HSA)
If available, enroll in a health savings account (HSA) at your workplace. HSAs are savings accounts that you can put toward your medical bills to help cover the cost of high deductibles. As of 2016, HSA holders could save up to $3,350 for individuals and $6,750 for families in tax-deductible money.
Consumers increasingly use HSAs to mitigate out-of-pocket health care costs incurred for them or for their families. Keep in mind that the amount of income in your HSA will vary based off your deposit rate, use, and the time you've spent working. Still, for employees who have the option of opening an HSA, these accounts can go a long way to making sure you and your families are covered in case of a medical emergency.
4. Shop Around
Most of the time, you will know about upcoming medical procedures for weeks or months in advance. This means that, unless you are involved in a sudden accident, you will have an option to review the potential costs of your procedure.
Doing so may be tedious, but it ensures that you make the wisest decision when it comes to medical spending. Consumers tend to forget that healthcare is a market and that competition exists. In other words, you don't have to lock yourself in to a particular hospital or doctor. Feel free to shop around and explore other options.
Chances are, you could find a cheaper alternative. Different facilities offer treatments for different prices, so it's worth looking at all healthcare providers in your area before committing to a certain treatment facility.
Of course, you'll want to choose a facility with a good reputation and a strong record of success. Often, this may mean shelling out a few extra dollars. Still, it's likely that you can save yourself a pretty penny by shopping around, and even if you don't, you can at least rest assured that you made the most informed decision.
5. Ask for a Discount
You can potentially reduce the cost of your medical bills by asking for a discount upfront. It may seem unconventional, but many hospitals and practitioners offer certain discounts for which you may be eligible.
For example, some hospitals are part of networks that will reduce your medical bills by a certain percentage if you pay over the phone. More often than not, these discounts are only available to consumers who ask for them. Depending on your economic status or the price of your procedure, some medical facilities offer additional discounts that can be paired with your medical insurance to substantially reduce the cost of your procedure. For example, it's not uncommon for hospitals to offer discounts of up to thirty percent for qualifying customers.
Even if you don't find a discount related to your particular situation, your doctor or hospital may provide you with valuable information about discounts you can use in the future.
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