Strategies for discounting and reducing medical bills

The health care consumer who is uninsured or has a high deductible is susceptible to the uncontrolled and unregulated world of retail medical bills. Two common scenarios dominate the hospital bill auditing.

First and most common is the use of medical services from a doctor or hospital for a specific ailment or emergency need. He seeks care, receives treatment, and is billed.

Second, and increasingly common in today’s declining economy, is the person who has a future need for medical services and shops for a doctor who is willing to treat at a discounted price.

Let me start with the second scenario. He is uninsured and has pain and weakness in his left knee. Common sense tells you that you should see an orthopedist. He will recommend x-rays, MRIs, physical therapy, and possibly surgery.

Call several orthopedists in your area. Talk to the office manager, not the front desk or doctor, and ask, what is the doctor’s usual and customary charge for an evaluation of knee pain? Ask if the doctor does x-rays in his office and, if so, the cost or if he refers you, to which diagnostic center? Continue research for other potential providers, MRI, therapy. Most doctors don’t care where you go for tests or therapy. Their concern is that they provide an accurate diagnosis and prognosis.

After performing leg work, determine your first, second, and third options for your medical care. Call again and ask for your best cash price or if you need to make extended payments, ask if they will give you the cash price if you pay in full in six months.

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