To say that health care costs in the U.S. are out of control would be an understatement. Health care providers regularly burden patients with unreasonably high medical bills that are often laden with obscure fees and hidden costs. While it’s easy to become discouraged in the face of exorbitant medical bills, there are numerous steps you can take to make health care costs considerably less strenuous. Anyone looking to get their health care costs under control amidst a horribly broken system should consider the following tips.
Seek Out Affordable Options
If certain doctors’ offices, hospitals and other medical facilities have traditionally charged you exorbitant sums, it may be in your best interest to seek out more affordable options. For example, if there are any community clinics in your area, there’s a good chance they provide free or heavily discounted services to patients with limited means. Additionally, when seeking out minor medical advice, remote options may be worth considering, as a virtual doctor visit stands to cost you far less than an in-person one.
Request a Prompt Payment Discount
Many medical facilities are more willing to negotiate than you may think. For example, certain facilities provide patients with prompt payment discounts. As the name suggests, this entails receiving a discount in exchange for timely payment of medical bills. However, since such discounts aren’t openly advertised, the onus is generally on patients to ask about them.
When enquiring about prompt payment discounts, make it clear that you have limited financial resources and that you wish to receive a substantial discount if you agree to pay a certain bill immediately. In fact, if the facility you’re dealing with doesn’t have a set rate for prompt payment discounts, throw your own number out there and gauge their response. There’s a chance that they won’t be amenable to this request, but at the end of the day, there’s absolutely no harm in asking.
Determine a Manageable Payment Plan
As previously stated, many medical facilities are perfectly willing to negotiate with patients. In many cases, these places will abstain from sending bills to collections as long as patients make an earnest effort to pay them. So, if you’re unable to pay a certain bill all at once – even with a prompt payment discount – talk to your hospital, doctor’s office, etc. about hammering out a manageable payment plan. This will entail paying your bill in monthly installments that are affordable with your current income level.
Insist on an Explanation
The overwhelming majority of medical bills in the U.S. contain errors. That being the case, it stands to reason that most of the medical bills you receive – if not all of them – feature billing errors that are not in your favor. Instead of accepting this, get in touch with the facility your next medical bill comes from and insist that they explain every single charge in detail. You’re likely to find that they’re unable to provide proper explanations for certain charges, and if this is indeed the case, you should request that those charges be taken off the bill. After all, if they can’t explain why you’re being charged for something, they shouldn’t be charging you for it.
Apply for Financial Aid
Many hospitals offer financial aid programs to uninsured and underinsured patients. However, as is the case with prompt payment discounts, these programs generally aren’t advertised. So, if you’re unclear on whether your preferred hospital offers financial aid, you’ll need to ask. The exact extent of the aid varies from hospital to hospital, but some facilities essentially provide free medical care to individuals who qualify. In some cases, this is even retroactive, meaning it can be used to wipe out existing bills.
Few things are less disheartening than receiving an offensively expensive medical bill. Even people with decent insurance often wind up paying excessive out-of-pocket fees, making affordable health care seem like a pipedream for U.S. citizens. While unreasonable health care costs are a problem Americans will be dealing with for the foreseeable future, this doesn’t mean you’ll need to accept them as an inescapable fact of life. Provided you have the proper tips at your disposal, getting exorbitant health care costs under control is far from impossible.