Sticker shock is all around us. How many of us ogle over a new car only to whistle between our teeth when we see the price they’ve tagged on that baby?
However, nowhere is sticker shock so astounding as when you get a medical bill after an unexpected, or even an expected, stay at your local hospital. They served you Jello in a cup, a fruit cup and some painfully small minute steak for dinner and they charged $20,000 for a five-day visit. Heck, it wasn’t even a heart attack, it was only a scare. It turns out the heart attack comes when you are reviewing your bill. You didn’t have one beforehand; now you do.
So, how can we cut back on medical bills? The truth is, we are powerless, but not in the manner you might think. We have some say in how much we might pay, but we are absolutely beholden to the idea that we deserve to carry on one more day. We all deserve the best care money can buy. Almost no one says no to a doctor when their life or their standard of living is on the line.
In so many words, we are insatiable gluttons for medical care. We are like food addicts at a grocery store. Let the other guy be the stoic. Give me the drugs, the surgery, the physical rehab!
That said, here are some real tricks for dealing with high medical bills:
You don’t have to accept the first price estimate thrown at you and, if you want to push it, you can even fly overseas to have many surgical procedures done at a fraction of the cost – and while you are in recovery, you can get a tan, sit near a beach and get waited on hand and foot. You can also shop around for prescription drugs, sometimes beating the big discount stores with online shopping or by-mail drug stores. Lowest Med recommends you at least start by doing your research and finding out what savings are out there through a “price lookup tool,” which, to most of us, means specialized software.
You’d be surprised how erroneous a hospital bill can be. Let’s say you are asleep in a hospital bed and the physical rehab specialist drops by. Well, you are asleep, but the poor rehab specialists made the long walk from his office to your room, so the visit gets slapped onto your bill. You didn’t get the service, but you got the bill. How do you like that?
I spent a week in a hospital once for a grand total of $18,000, during which time nearly every specialist in the state of New York dropped by to see me. I didn’t ask them to do that. Most of them came by and said, “I don’t know how to help you,” and sauntered away, advising my clinician to seek help somewhere else. Each of those dumb visits cost me big time, even though none of them were of any particular help, other than eliminating that specialty as a possible path for my recovery.
When the bill came, did I look through it? No! It was so grand and shocking, I didn’t know what to do with it … allowing some highway robbery to go on, literally, right under my nose.
Hire a Pro:
This gets us to the next suggestion: Hire someone to review your bill for you and track down all of the expenses. This can be an onerous chore because hospitals are like police departments: they like to hide their expenses in codes. What’s a 318-A? How would I know? Sometimes it takes a bit of detective work to find out why you might have a charge on your bill, so you can question its validity.
Offer to Pay a Discount
Yes, hospitals are businesses. Doctors and clinics will often give you a discount if you offer to pay upfront or pay in cash. Figure out what your personal bill will be after insurance and see if you can afford to pay before the procedure is done. Sometimes, they’ll knock a few bucks off the bill beforehand.
Apply for Assistance
Clinics and hospitals often have business managers who will walk patients through various aid programs based on need. The larger hospitals, especially, offer discounts to their poorer patients. It might be worth your while to talk with these guys and sacrifice an hour or so of watching reruns on television during your hospital stay.