How to Negotiate a Medical Bill - 3 Tips for Success

medical bill stethoscopeEven if you have health insurance, there may come a time when you face a hefty medical bill. And for those who do not have any coverage, these bills are all too common.

While it can be disheartening to receive a large bill for medical service, you don’t necessarily have to pay the full amount that is due. It is possible to negotiate a bill from a hospital or doctor’s office – you may not always be successful in attempts to lower the amount due, but it is always worth an attempt.

1. Pay Today, In Person
Unfortunately, unless the billing office is located in your area, you will not be able to pay in person. With many medical facilities, especially larger institutions, it is highly possible that their billing office may be in another city or state. However, if you are dealing with a small local office, such as your primary care physician, there is a good chance that the billing is done onsite.

Don’t be shy about showing up at the billing office and offering to pay on the spot with a credit card or cash. Explain that you showed up in person to pay your bill in full but are only able to afford 80% – you may be surprised at how many times you will receive the discount. A 20% discount is a reasonable request, and a good starting point for negotiating.

Recently, I was faced with a $205 bill for blood work. It was not the largest medical bill I’ve received, but I figured it made sense to at least ask for a discount. After explaining my situation and requesting a 20% discount, the representative countered with a 15% discount if I immediately paid in full. It was an easy decision to make, as I accepted the offer and paid the entire bill at the reduced rate.

2. Be Persistent
There is a good chance that you are going to be declined the first time you request a discount. However, this does not mean you should give up – you simply need to change your negotiation strategy.

If you can afford it, offer to pay with cash. With a cash payment there is no credit card fee or hassle – whatever you agree to pay is what the medical provider will receive, and most companies are hesitant to turn down instant cash flow.

3. Remember to Be Friendly While Explaining Your Situation
It is very frustrating to receive a large medical bill. The couple hundred dollars that I had to pay for blood work is nothing compared to the $10,000-plus bills that some people receive for specialized treatment.

Remember, the billing office employees are only doing their job. They send bills and do their best to collect on them. There is no reason to take out your frustrations on the wrong person; instead, you should be friendly with everybody you speak to.

Furthermore, don’t be afraid to share the details of your situation. Inform them that you are doing everything you can to get the bill paid, such as working with your insurance company (if you have one) or setting aside the necessary amount in your budget to pay the bill in full. If you are friendly and courteous, the person you are working with will likely do what they can to help.

Final Thoughts
If you have top-of-the-line health insurance, you may never have to attempt to negotiate the price of health care. Unfortunately, there are roughly 50 million Americans with no health insurance whatsoever, as well as a large number with low quality healthcare plans.

The next time you are faced with a daunting medical bill, use the three tips above to negotiate a better price on your medical bills. You may be surprised at how much you can save.

Have you ever successfully negotiated a healthcare bill? What tips do you have for lowering the costs of medical bills?

10 comments to How to Negotiate a Medical Bill – 3 Tips for Success

  • Medical bills are usually pretty easy to negotiate – you just have to ask and be willing and able to live up to your end of the bargain.

  • I too know that it is possible to reduce medical bills. My wife is able to get a discount on orthodontics by paying in full with cash. Cool stuff!

  • I would also recommend seeing if the company that you work for do discounted medical bills through them e.g. healthcare, life assurance/insurance etc.

  • This is really good advice that not a lot of people know about. There are really some medical bills that are definitely more than the average person would have accounted for. It’s good to know that there are still understanding companies out there willing to sometimes help you when you might need it most.

  • Darren West

    This is great advice, I didn’t really know you could actually negotiate med bills like that. I wonder how many other type of bills can be negotiated in the same way?

  • Actually I think the cable bill can be negotiated the same way if you can show proof of your situation.

  • Yeah I called my cable people once and sent them the letter I got from my employer saying they were cutting my wages and they took $20 off the monthly bill for same service, not much but wa something.

  • sav

    These tips are all good and fun like an amusement park, even though they read like a piece of copy write in a throw away retail catalog. Generally you can do your endless surfing and never find anything you can actually use to able to negotiate such as the standard industry prices which will not cut a bill down by 20% but will cut it down by 50% to 60% due to all of the outlandish over charging and unnecessary treatments and test done. All of these erroneous charges are hidden behind codes which are marked up and padded $$$$ four times over. Even an itemized account statement is a joke because it does disclose all of these hidden charges padding they’re pockets nicely. I read the useless lame comments made here and I’m sure that you will all be paying that bill in full or get taken to court if you don’t. Your worried about twenty bucks! Thats not a doctors bill, thats lunch. Ridiculous.

  • sav

    What planet am I on?
    I must be a visiting alien.
    I couldn’t be part of this species.

  • Very informative post on how to negotiate a medical bill! Is this the same if you will have dealing with forex?