5 Tips for Negotiating Medical Bills You Can't Afford

5 Tips for Negotiating Medical Bills You Can't Afford

Submitted by Rachel R on Fri, 05/15/2015 - 4:41pm

5 Tips for Negotiating Medical Bills You Can't Afford

You can haggle on medical bills to lower costs

Image Source: Flickr User Eric Schmuttenmaer

Roughly 43 million Americans have delinquent medical debt dragging down their credit scores. And medical bills account for 52% of the overdue debt. Interestingly, those with past due medical debt are likely to be paying all their other debts on time such as their mortgage, auto loan, and credit cards. It's only medical bills that are wrecking their credit. If you owe medical bills you can't pay, you may be able to negotiate down to a more affordable amount to prevent it from going into collections and causing worse problems. Here are five tips to try!

#1 Offer a lump sum

If there's any way you can scrape up a little bit of cash, you may be able to negotiate down by 30% to 50% of the list price. Most procedures and services are priced with insurance companies in mind and charge based on what they know carriers will approve. This is often much higher than what is “fair” for the services, particularly if you don't have insurance or it doesn't cover the procedure. Call the billing office, tell them why you can't afford to pay and ask for a discount. If they don't offer a significant break, call the next person up the line and tell your story politely and ask for a break.

#2 Ask for a second opinion

Just as you should ask for a second opinion of a diagnosis before you get a surgery or other non-reversible treatment, so too should you ask for a second look at your bill. If your bill was miscoded, you might be charged more than your insurance allowed, and that can make remaining balances your responsibility. Ask for a detailed bill with CPT codes if your bill didn't show these. Look up the codes online to make sure they align with the treatment you received and ask for corrections to codes to lower the bill if your bill is inaccurate.

#3 Confirm what you were charged

Check what your insurance covers and call your insurance provider to find out how much they will pay for each procedure. You can also check online at Health Care Blue Book to see what the fair price should be. Also, understand that every provider charges different prices, and if you have to pay a percentage of co-insurance, it's wise to check with other providers to see if they charge less. If they do, ask the other provider to price match. And next time you need a procedure, it's smart to comparison shop prior to having diagnostic tests or imaging performed or a procedure done.

#4 Ask for a payment plan

The ability to pay a lump sum may enable you to get a discount, but the next best thing is to get a payment plan you can afford. Start by asking for a discount on the total amount and if they give you one, then ask for a payment plan. They may tell you that you can't have a discount and a payment plan, but just in case you can score both, ask for the discount first. Setting up a payment plan (and sticking to it) can keep the debt out of collections. Once the debt goes into collections, you will have two negative entries on your credit report that makes everything worse.

#5 Consider bankruptcy

Medical bills are one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy even among those that have insurance. In fact, 78% of those that file bankruptcy due to unmanageable medical debt are insured. Medical bills are usually completely dischargeable in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, if you are in the midst of a medical crisis, it may be wise to wait until that's over to file for debt relief. For instance, if you are undergoing cancer treatment or rehabilitation after an accident, waiting out the course of treatment then filing will give you the most complete protection and a meaningful fresh start.

To find out more about medical bills and bankruptcy, contact the law offices of John T Orcutt to speak to a North Carolina bankruptcy expert today. Call +1-919-646-2654 for a free consultation at our one of our convenient locations in Greensboro, Raleigh, Fayetteville, Garner, Wilson or Durham.

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