41% of all Americans have medical debt. But many people don’t know that you can negotiate your medical bills. Unfortunately, I am one of the 41% with medical debt, but I also have experience negotiating my bills. Today, I’m going to share with you 7 tips and tricks that have helped me negotiate and lower my medical bills.
Now before we get into the negotiation tips: here is just a brief disclaimer. This article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered either financial or legal advice. I also believe that it’s dystopian that I have to write this article. Yes, it’s crazy Americans live this way. I agree that we should all have universal health care. I do not think that our healthcare system is the best in the world and I believe it contributes to medical gaslighting. With that said, let’s dive into seven tips to negotiate your medical bills.
Tip 1 on How to Negotiate Medical Bills: Do your homework
Do your homework before you enter any negotiation, but this is essential when negotiating with health insurance companies. It’s really important that you do your homework and you know what you’re talking about.
Start by reviewing your medical bills. See if you can find any discrepancies like being billed twice for the same procedure. Or if you can see any inflated charges, research local health care costs and compare them to what you were billed for. Being well-informed is going to give you a strong foundation for your negotiation.
Tip 2: Be Polite and Persistent
Remember the person you’re talking to on the phone. This is not the person who set the financial prices for your trip to the ER or for your insulin. This is just somebody who’s probably making $12 an hour and has to deal with a lot of angry people every single day. Please be polite.
Be respectful when you’re communicating with the billing department or with the debt collection agency. Explain your situation and emphasize that you do want to pay the bill, but you want to work with them to find a solution. But also stress your financial limitations. Stay persistent, document everything and follow up regularly. You may not get a resolution on one phone call.
By staying persistent, you are going to increase your overall chances of getting to the resolution that you want. Nobody wants to work with an asshole. If you yell at the person on the phone, all you’re doing is hurting your chances of coming to a resolution that works in your favor.
Tip 3: Negotiate a Lower Settlement
One really effective strategy is to negotiate a lower payment than what actually comes on your bill. You can usually do this with any debt that has gone into collections. But you may also be able to negotiate directly with a hospital or a provider. You don’t have to let the bill go into collections to do this negotiating. Make it clear that you can pay in a lump sum rather than installments. This is a really big bonus for the hospital or the provider or the debt collection agency. They want to settle this bill in its total.
If you can pay 75% of the bill right now over the phone, that’s a win for them. I have successfully used this to lower my medical bills a bunch of times, and I have a Patrons only video that goes through the exact scripts that I have used to bring my bills lower. (Becoming a Patron will give you access to the video and helps me support these long-form blog posts.)
Tip 4: Request an itemized bill
One of the first things you should do is ask for an itemized bill. The bill is going to break down exactly the cost per procedure and the cost per tools used. So if they gave you an Advil in the hospital, the bill may say: Advil: $500. Then, you can come back and say, “That seems really high for an Advil. In my area, it looks like Advil costs at a hospital are more like $150.”
An itemized bill is also going to allow you to make sure that you actually received the treatment you were billed for. Once you have the itemized bill, take note of any charges that seem unreasonable or that you did not receive. This is where you’re going to start your negotiating.
Tip 5: Explore financial assistance programs
Financial assistance programs can be a lifeline for people who are low income or who are struggling with high medical bills. These programs exist at a lot of hospitals. And you don’t necessarily have to be making $0 a year to qualify for this.
Medical financial assistance programs may offer reduced rates. They may offer payment assistance, or they may offer total forgiveness depending on your specific situation. Contact the billing department and ask if they have any financial assistance programs.
Tip 6: Seek professional help
If you’ve been at this for a while and you’ve tried these other options, you can seek out professional help to do the negotiating for you. There are medical billing advocates out there who will take on your cases. And there are also nonprofit credit counseling services that you can reach out to. These are experts who understand the industry and to have experience with these types of negotiations and back and forth. So you don’t have to go through this alone.
Tip 7: Document everything
My final tip is to keep meticulous records of all the conversations. These records should include the dates and the times of these conversations and who you spoke to.
Save copies of any letters, bills, collections, and any paperwork that you get. That documentation is going to serve as evidence. It’s also going to help you track your progress. Having organized and easy to understand records is going to be crucial to any negotiating or challenges because it’s going to give you that proof.
Bonus Tip on How to Negotiate Medical Bills
Hot tip: you can also record phone calls. If on the line they say, “This call is going to be recorded,” you can also record it on your end.
The final word on negotiating medical bills
Remember, the health care industry and the health insurance industry in the United States is a broken scam. It is absolute garbage start to finish. So do not be afraid to push back. You are well within your rights to challenge this. Don’t just accept what they say at face value.
I personally am still dealing with medical bills from a year ago because I am being super meticulous about things and I’m challenging them everywhere that I think I can challenge them, so that I can lower my overall out of pocket costs.
If you’re more of a visual learner, we have all of this info in the video below. Be sure to subscribe to our channel for new videos every Monday.