Medical costs are going up all the time, and for many people, even simple procedures can be prohibitively expensive. More extensive treatments frequently contribute to bankruptcy and financial hardship for low and middle-class families. For these people, lowering costs as much as possible is essential. Lowering medical bills can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can try to reduce your healthcare costs. Here are some tips:
Verify Insurance Coverage
Confirm that all the services you were billed for are covered by your insurance. Your insurance company will use an NPI lookup to verify your provider and make sure that the correct person is being paid. If your claim was denied, work with your insurance company to understand the reason for the denial and see if it can be appealed. In the future, consult with your insurance company about any procedures you need ahead of time to verify that they will be covered. Consider asking your provider if there are alternative treatments if the recommended procedure isn’t covered by your insurance.
Review Your Bills Thoroughly
The first line of defense against incorrect and expensive medical bills is to review them thoroughly. Carefully review all medical bills for errors or overcharges. Mistakes are common, with some sources saying that up to 75% of bills contain errors. In many cases, catching these mistakes can lead to significant savings.
Negotiate with Healthcare Providers
Don’t hesitate to negotiate with healthcare providers to try and lower your bill. Many providers are willing to work with patients to set up payment plans or offer discounts, especially if you are facing financial hardship.
You can also lower your bills beforehand by consulting with your provider and asking how you can make your treatment less expensive. For example, ask if you can combine visits to reduce office fees or get some procedures done in a community clinic or other low-cost office. Also, ask your provider how you can reduce your medication expenses.
Ask for an Itemized Bill
If your bill is confusing or you have received a lot of medical care, it can be hard to know if you’re being charged correctly. Many items are lumped together on regular medical bills, so make sure to request an itemized bill that breaks down all charges. This can help you understand what you are being billed for and identify any unnecessary or duplicate charges.
Expect to get multiple bills from different providers, especially if you have been hospitalized, as many specialists charge separately from hospital charges. You can also expect to get documentation from your insurance company about which items were and were not covered- all of this can be very confusing so make an effort to keep things organized.
Check for Eligibility for Financial Assistance Programs
There are many programs to help people with medical bills, including federal and state Medicaid and Medicare programs, local programs, charity organizations, and tax rebates. In addition, many people can apply for income-based payment plans from their medical providers and hospitals. Take the time to inquire about financial assistance programs offered by hospitals or clinics. Some institutions also have assistance programs for individuals with low income or financial hardships, and those for whom large medical bills are a financial burden.
Explore Discounts for Upfront Payments
Some healthcare providers offer discounts for patients who can make upfront payments. Inquire about such discounts before undergoing a procedure or treatment. They may also have discounts for those who are paying out-of-pocket or who have no insurance. Make sure you talk to your provider about this, and if they don’t offer these discounts, it might be worth shopping around for a provider who does.
Consider Medical Tourism
In some cases, especially for elective procedures, exploring medical tourism might be an option. Getting medical treatment in countries where the cost of healthcare is lower could result in substantial savings. This method isn’t a good option for everyone, and it may come at a higher risk depending on the country you choose to visit for your procedure. Travel itself can also be very expensive, so make sure you only consider this option for very expensive treatments and factor in all the potential costs.
Use Generic Medications
Generic medication is an affordable and completely safe option for some medications. If you have been prescribed medications, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacy if generic versions are available. Generic drugs are often more affordable and can provide the same therapeutic benefits. Make sure your provider knows that you are looking for more affordable options- if a generic version of your medicine isn’t available, your provider may be able to prescribe a different option that is cheaper.
Research Healthcare Pricing
Consider looking into other providers or treatments that may be less expensive or have affordable payment options. Research the cost of medical procedures and services in your area. Some online tools and resources allow you to compare prices for different providers, helping you choose more cost-effective options. Don’t be afraid to shop around while looking for more affordable care.
Seek Charity Care
Consider looking for a provider that works with charities or offers services on a sliding scale. Some hospitals and healthcare organizations offer charity care for individuals who are unable to pay their medical bills. Contact your local nursing service, county health clinic, local hospital, churches, and other community organizations to find out more information on low-cost, sliding-scale, and charity medical organizations.
Utilize Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)
Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts are ways to save money on medical bills by planning because you can add money to these accounts tax-free. Once you have an HSA or FSA, use it to pay for qualified medical expenses. You can save money on taxes by using these accounts, so they can lower the amount you pay for medical expenses overall.
Explore Prescription Assistance Programs
Finally, consider using a program designed to make your prescriptions more affordable. Many pharmaceutical companies offer prescription assistance programs that provide medications at reduced costs for individuals who meet certain criteria. You may need to send in proof of income, family size, and other pertinent details, so make sure to apply as soon as possible.
Remember to communicate openly with your healthcare providers about your financial situation. They may be able to provide guidance or offer solutions to make healthcare more affordable. If you’re struggling to manage medical bills, consider seeking advice from a financial counselor or healthcare advocate.