The cost of medical care is a topic I’ve covered many times here at the Health Insurance Navigator. As the price of healthcare continues to rise and Americans are forced to pay for a growing percentage of the medical services they use, the topic bears repeating.
According to Consumer Reports, 16% of Americans today can’t afford their medical bills. In response, the publication — which is known for its trusted product reviews and ratings — came out with a new report encouraging consumers to haggle with their doctors for the best possible price on healthcare.
Consumer Reports tackles the issue for three different health scenarios:
- Care for people who are healthy
- Unexpected care
- Elective procedures
Here’s a summary of Consumer Reports‘ recommendations for getting the best price possible on medical care.
Speak up: While you’re still healthy and before you’ve incurred medical costs is the perfect time to talk with your doctor about your need to save money. Consumer Reports‘ medical expert, John Santa, MD, writes that by openly discussing the fact that cost is an issue ,you increase the likelihood that your doctor will consider trying more conservative, less expensive treatments (but not less effective), such as a generic drug, rather than brand-name prescription drugs.
Challenge outsized bills: If what you expected would be a $2,000 medical procedure ends up being $20,000, Santa says to ask your doctor to walk through the bill with you to help you understand how it became so high. Confirm that all the services listed on the bill were actually performed (see this previous post for common medical billing errors and what to do about them). And don’t be shy about asking for a better rate; there’s always room for negotiation. Talk with the hospital’s billing department about lowering your bill and setting up a payment plan you can stick to.
Do your research: In cases of elective medical procedures, Consumer Reports advises to take your time to find the best doctor or medical facility for the service you want, both in terms of quality and price.
Health care costs vary greatly from one medical site to another, as I’ve previously discussed, so be careful about where you choose to have a procedure done. Get a price upfront and in writing, and ask about all costs associated with your care (doctor bills, hospital or clinic, etc.)
You can read the full report, “How to haggle with your doctor,” on the Consumer Reports web site. And you can offer some of your own recommendations for ways to save on healthcare in the comments section below.
Consumer Reports: “How to haggle with your doctor.”