‘Real Money’ Tips on Fighting Sky-High Medical Bill

Jun 23, 2014 6:29pm

ABC News’ “Real Money” team helped the Haugs of San Antonio, Texas, put thousands of dollars back in their pockets.

Check out the five tips below to help put money back in yours too!

1. Request an itemized bill from your hospital.  A recent study found that 80 percent of medical bills contain errors. With a system as error-prone as ours, you’ll want to make sure you are not paying for services you didn’t receive.

  • Ask what services are covered under your room and facility charges
  • Ask what treatments were provided
  • Identify the date and time of when you were admitted
  • Clarify medical terminology that is confusing
  • Specifically look for erroneous double charges, for mischarges, and for situations where a charge defies common sense (e.g., a $22 Q tip).

2. Comparison shop. Compare charges on your bill to other similar, nearby hospitals. Just like you would research buying a car or a home, you can research health care costs. Use tools like NerdWallet Health’s Best Hospitals tool or Medicare’s Hospital Compare to look up the cost of common procedures in your region. Even if it’s after the medical procedure’s been performed, you can still negotiate the prices of your bill. Use comparable information to challenge your hospital on their pricing.

3. Get the right person on the case. When it comes to your medical treatment, you go to your doctor. But when it comes to your medical bills, you typically need to go to the medical billing department. Get that itemized bill, go over it with a fine tooth comb, do some comparison shopping, and prepare yourself for extensive conversations with the hospital billing department. The more information you have when you begin this process, the better.

ABC money hospital sk 140623 16x9 608 Real Money Tips on Fighting Sky High Medical Bill

ABC News

4. Ask to pay the Medicare rate. Medicare negotiates a 73 percent discount of the average hospital charge. Why should you pay more? Know what Medicare or an insurance company would pay for a hospitalization, and ask to pay this amount.

5. Negotiate how you’ll pay.

  • Ask for hospital payment assistance plans.
  • Offer to pay with cash – some hospitals will give a discount if you pay in cash

And, don’t give up! You can always call in a pro to help with the negotiating. Most medical bill negotiating services charge between 25 percent to 35 percent of what they save you on your bill.

The reputable services, according to healthcare consumer advocate, Michelle Katz, will never ask for your personal information or money upfront.

Related: Sticker shock – investigating the high costs of hospital bills.
Related: How to save on emergency room bills.
Related: How to save families on hospital costs.
Related: 5 tips before you get that hospital procedure.

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