Although the clinic you go to certainly isn't a farmers market, you can still haggle over your medical bill — the numbers aren't set in stone. Dr. John Santa, an internist and the director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, says you should always try to negotiate because patients are paying more these days due to larger deductibles. Here are some of his tips:
Tell your doctor you want to cut costs from the get-go. The best time to talk to your doctor about costs is when you're healthy, before the costs start adding up. Even if you're in good health, your doctor will still take your financial situation into consideration and may do things like prescribing generic medicine or holding off a nonurgent expensive diagnostic test to cut costs.
Deal with large bills in a savvy manner. When you unexpectedly get a large bill you can't afford, don't pay it off until you have done the following things. Sit with your doctor and run the costs over with him to see why it was so high. Make certain that the procedures were necessary and that they are priced fairly. You can check the standard prices of the procedure on healthcareblueblook.com. Let the hospital know that you're looking for a discount or a feasible payment plan and if that doesn't work out, consult groups like INSNET or Medical Cost Advocate that will help you lower your bills for a fee.
Be smart with elective procedures. Since these procedures are planned, you get time to do your research and to shop around for the best price. Be wary of prices that sound too good to be true, shortcuts, and doctors that you've never heard of. Always ask the provider for an itemized list of the potential charges and remember that you can always bargain for a fair price.