It is difficult in the moment to make sure that you are not being cheated by the hospital, your insurance provider, or your doctor, especially if is an emergency situation. It is important to have an advocate to support you before, during, and after any medical procedures.
Here are five simple tips that you can use to help make sure that you are paying the necessary charges and not being over charged for procedures, tests, or medication that you did not use or take.
Communication is an essential component in ensuring that you are not unnecessarily charged.
It is surprising, since many people have no problem disputing wrongful charges at restaurants or other retail venues, but when it comes to health care (because of the serious nature of the industry), many people are hesitant to question their accrued charges, even though “as many as 8 out of 10 bills for health care services contain errors.”
There are a few things that patients can do to lower their expenses, such as making sure that the doctor you are provided (in an Emergency Room situation) is covered under your insurance.
In a moment of emergency, the last thing that is on your mind is the cost of your bill, but a simple thing that you can communicate to the hospital is the name of your insurance provider.
If the hospital knows your insurance provider, and can note that you requested to be seen by an in-network doctor, then you can usually lower your medical bill (even if they were unable to provide you an in-network doctor).
Additionally, know what procedures the doctor is requesting and ask if they are necessary. If the procedure is necessary, ask if there is a low-cost equivalent. Communication is key.
If you don’t ask, your doctor or hospital can’t provide you with the necessary information to inform you about your medical options.
When you are trying to understand the complete nature of your medical bill, make sure that you find the best person to talk to. There are customer-service based employees in the financial sector of most hospitals that can provide you with any information that you may want or need concerning the costs of procedures.
Also, many states have websites that provide a comprehensive list of the costs of the most common procedures. Communicate with doctors, your insurance provider, and the administrative staff at hospitals to reduce your medical costs.
Medical billing can be confusing and frustrating, so one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to ask questions and communicate with your health care providers.
Avoid Brands, Go Generic
One of the best ways to save money on your medical bill, especially when it comes to out-patient recovery, is to ask to use generic medication instead of brand names (if it is conducive to your recovery).
Most doctors will prescribe the generic brand of medication, but not all the time, so it is important to make sure to ask and request that you be prescribed generic medication.
This tactic of reducing your medical bill expenses may be uncomfortable and awkward for some, but it is an important skill to have when the time comes to pay your bill.
Many of the tactics already discusses will be beneficial in helping you negotiate (as in requesting lower cost procedures or medications, and making sure the doctor you are provided is in your insurance network). Another helpful tip to remember is to know the Medicare prices of procedures and use those as a starting point to negotiate your own price.
Many hospitals are okay with breaking even or making a small profit, which is how the Medicare prices are created, so if you know the starting price, you have more leverage when negotiating your own payment.
Know Your Bill
When it comes time to receive your actual bill, make sure that you request an itemized bill so that everything that you are charged for is clearly marked.
Medical billing and coding is an emerging and ever changing industry that is complex and oftentimes difficult to understand. If you are aware of small nuances of your bill, such as the current procedural terminology, or the CPT, which is a 5-digit billing code used by most, if not all, hospitals, then you have a way of communicating with hospitals to ensure that you are receiving the best price for your treatment.
Also, the CPT will be on your itemized bill, which will help you decipher what you are being charged for.
If there is anything that you feel may need explanation, do not hesitate to ask for a written explanation from the billing department of the hospital so that you are aware of what you are paying for.
When you request an itemized bill, everything is clearly laid out in case you have to dispute any charges. Oftentimes hospitals double bills, or charge for procedures that you didn’t actually have (for whatever reason), so going through your bill, item by item, will help you save money.
Offer Cash/Request A Payment Plan
Because of the complex nature of medical billing and coding, it is often easier for hospitals to accept cash payments, and by offering cash, because of the time and unnecessary charges that you save the hospital, you often receive a discount on the total bill.
It cost the hospital time and money to process credit card payments, so when cash is offered to them and they have the opportunity to bypass several steps in the payment process, there is often a discount involved.
Also, when it comes to larger medical bills, ask for a payment plan that you can pay in cash increments. This will ensure that your credit is not damaged for unpaid medical bills, and can often save you money.
The best way to save yourself money on medical expenses is to simply be informed: communicate and ask questions. The best thing to do is to be your own best advocate, know what you are getting in to, and don’t be afraid to speak up and understand the situation.
Mitchell Gavillion is a freelance writer who has been focusing on healthcare, ICD-10, and related subjects for the past few years.
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net