How to Finance a Medical Emergency

An OppLoans E-Book

Opploans - Expert Advice: Medical Bills


John BarnesCertified Financial Planner and owner of My Family Life Insurance, a full-service, independent insurance agency.

 

OppLoans: How does medical debt affect your credit?

Barnes: It can lead to poor credit rating and even bankruptcy. I recommend families saving enough to cover their deductible and even their plan’s out-of-pocket annual limits.

Is it possible to negotiate a medical bill?

Yes, it is absolutely possible to negotiate a medical bill. I generally don’t recommend negotiating small bills such as copays, but when your out-of-pocket costs start in the hundreds, then it may make sense.

Remember, these hospitals and doctor offices are businesses. They want their money fast so they can pay for bills, renovations and pay their staff. I have never done a formal poll on this subject, but if I did, I’m willing to bet 99 out of 100 hospitals would accept a discount from a patient if the patient offered paid his or her bill early or in cash.

What are the first steps the average patient should take in order to do this?

It is as simple as asking the hospital or doctor’s office if they have a cash payment policy. This can be a starting point. You can also propose a discount to them as well. Let’s say the bill is $500. You can say, “All I can pay is $300. Is that acceptable to you?” While some may push back, most won’t.

So hospitals really offer discounts for paying in cash? Why?

Yes. Remember that the hospital has been paid by a portion of insurance already. Now, they are collecting your part. They want that money fast so they will certainly agree to a discount, and hospitals usually have a cash discount policy. They may be hard to negotiate, but it is definitely worth the discussion with a hospital financial counselor. They may have leeway to offer you a higher discount.

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