Successfully Negotiate Your Medical Bills in 7 Simple Steps

You can haggle for everything, and we do mean everything. Here's how to get a better deal on your medical bills.

That said, keep in mind that some smaller offices may only have one or two workers in the billing department, and the person who picks up the phone may also be the person with the power to negotiate bills.

Step 5: Ask for a discount if you pay cash now rather than in installments

Before you call, you should have a dollar amount in mind to offer. Make sure the money you’re offering is something you can access to pay your bill today.

Tell the supervisor you can’t pay the full bill, but you do have X dollars. If you paid that amount today, would they accept that as payment in full rather than having you pay in installments? If they accept, ask for written confirmation saying the amount you send will pay the bill in full.

Neeleman says some providers are willing to accept a lower guaranteed payment in cases where they think a bill may go to collections. In that case, they could end up with nothing. “Normal collection rates in the field of health care are 40-50 percent,” Neeleman says.

Step 6: Request procedures be verified and recoded as necessary

If that doesn’t work, at least ask the billing department to verify your procedures and recode them if necessary. Then the insurance company can be rebilled for payment.

Medical coding is complex, and sometimes several different codes can be used to designate the same service. I discovered that after my insurance company began covering autism-related services. I couldn’t understand why the company was denying claims for my daughter when they clearly fell under what was covered.

In the end, a coding issue was to blame. Our provider’s billing department was using a more general code that, while accurately reflecting the services she was receiving, didn’t indicate that she was getting those services because of an autism spectrum disorder. Swapping in a new code was all that was needed for the insurance company to pay all the outstanding claims.

Step 7: Take it to the doctor, if appropriate

If none of the other steps work, you could discuss the matter with your doctor.

“You don’t want to start with the physician,” says Neeleman, but he does suggest scheduling a follow-up to discuss the bill if needed. This tactic may be best reserved for larger bills and instances in which you have a long relationship with the doctor.

Before you go in, find the going rate for similar services in your area. You may able to find this information through a price comparison tool on your health insurance company’s website or through a third party site like . If you can show that your bill is higher than what other providers charge in your area, you may be more likely to get the price lowered.

Not all doctors have direct control over billing charges. Some physicians are employed by a physician group that dictates prices. However, your doctor may be able to help you navigate the billing department and put you in touch with the right person.

You wouldn’t dream of buying a car without trying to get a better deal, so why are you resigned to paying thousands of dollars in medical bills, no questions asked? Try negotiating your next big bill and see how much money you can keep in your pocket.

Have you successfully negotiated a medical bill? Share how you did it in the comments below or on our .

Maryalene LaPonsie
Maryalene LaPonsie
After 13 years as a staffer for a Michigan legislator, I decided it was time to quit the commute and work from home instead. For the past three years, I’ve been penning ... More

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