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5 Ways to Save on Medical Bills

Are you looking for a way to save on medical bills?

Deb recently wrote in and asked: My family and I have had a recent deluge of medical bills and are expecting more in the near future. What advice do you have for paying down medical bills? -Deb

I posted this question on Facebook and got so many great responses. I compiled some of the most suggested responses into this post (if you’re interested, you can read all of the responses here):

1. Ask for assistance.

Apply for help from the medical company. Most hospitals have an assistance fund that is based on income. I know I qualify through our local hospital. I also get a major medication thru the manufacturer at no charge. I have to fill out an app and get my Dr to fill out the other half. Then fax in the required documents. Just ask. The worst they can do is say no. If all else fails, ask for a payment plan YOU are comfortable with. -Shandra

Ask for financial hardship paperwork. They can sometimes write off 25%-100% of the bill. I’ve used this myself years ago and my mother last year. -Amanda

Our health network has a financial assistance program. A lot of people don’t know about it. It’ll cover medically necessary procedures. You are eligible if you make under 400% of the poverty level, even if you have insurance. It may not cover everything, but it certainly helped me this past year with numerous health issues. Speak to the billing departments to ask about any help they offer. -Adelaide

For more advice, check out this post on What NOT To Do When You Get a Large Medical Bill

2. Look at every bill carefully.

My advice is to check over every single bill you receive. Make sure it’s legit and it ran through your insurance properly. Sometimes a hospital and the doctor may bill for the same service, or a service comes up out-of-network when it’s not. I have found thousands of dollars in mistakes in our bills just in the last six months. I call our insurance company frequently with questions. It’s confusing, but don’t let that stop you from asking if you see something you’re unsure about. -Susanna

My daughter’s ear tubes came back with a $3000 out of pocket. I always ask for a detailed bill and have a coding book and it had been coded plastic surgery. Really? Told a friend to go through theirs line by line and they caught thousands of dollars in discrepancies. Sometimes human error input of the details makes healthcare bills crazy. – Teresa

For more advice, read It Pays to Review Your Bills.

3. Talk to the billing office.

Call and talk to every office that bills you. Been there done that and after talking to each office and letting them know the magnitude of the situation, we were able to come up with a plan of payment. As long as we payed the agreed upon amount consistently they were okay with it. And I’m talking $25 to each office at most. Each time we paid one off, that amount was added to the next smallest bill and kept at it like that. -Terri

Definitely call the billing company, let them know your specific situation and see if they can lower the payment or adjust for a lower payment plan. One medical facility wiped out a $400 balance when I called to see if we could get on a payment plan. You never know what they can or will do, unless you ask. -Bridie

Go into the financial office in person and talk to them. Bring your tax return, pay stubs, and your budget. They are there to help you. -Jessica

If you don’t have the funds to pay it off when you call, I would speak to them about a low monthly payment. Then, as you get the funds, call again and ask if you were to pay today if they could give a discount on the amount owed. -Alicia

For more ideas, check out this post on How We Save Money on Health Care Costs.

4. Ask for a discount.

If you have any cash, call the companies and tell them you are trying to determine which bills to pay with the cash you have. Ask about a discount. I think we got 20 percent knocked off one bill. Then, ask about a payment plan. We also discovered when we requested detailed medical records that doctors we never saw in the hospital were charging for services. It didn’t impact the amount we owed but after alerting the billing company to the errors (and getting no results and they were very belligerent) I started calling the physician group. Took me a while to find phone numbers for principles but I think they were taken aback by the errors. -Kim

Call and ask for cash discounts. Our hospital has given several people I know lower prices when they offer to pay cash. -Shannon

I have had a lot of success calling and offering a one-time cash payment for a reasonable amount. My husband is currently paying for OP surgery; they gave him a price prior to surgery that was 2.5 times less than what it actually was. They haven’t been receptive yet to a lump payment, so he’s paying them $50/month for a year and then will call and try it again. -Jennifer

We’ve been able to consolidate all of our medical bills into one large sum and make monthly payments on it. Even if it’s $20 a month, it’s something. There’s no interest (at least where I live), and it doesn’t hurt your credit. -Katie

For more ideas, read this post on Cutting Down on Health Care Costs.

5. Don’t pay until you’ve verified everything.

Don’t start paying until you’ve verified all charges and confirmed your insurance has paid its part. Then you can call each one if you have the funds and make an offer to settle. You might end up settling or getting a discount. Then if you can’t pay in full set up a payment plan that you can manage. If you can’t pay $100 a month tell them in no uncertain terms that isn’t possible. Ask them what you can do to decrease the payments. -Julie

If you have insurance make sure all doctors and hospitals are in network otherwise some insurance won’t pay. You can also find out the cost of the procedure (sometimes, not always). If you have a deductible, have you met it? Have you met your out of pocket, copay? Depending on procedure/insurance and other things some don’t go toward totals. And maybe you’ve met your deductible/oop and insurance will cover the rest. -Melodie

Remember that huge medical bills may qualify you for a tax write off. Of course, that doesn’t help you in the moment but you may have a windfall come tax time when you can catch up financially as a whole. -Malinda

Do you agree with these suggestions? Do you have any advice or personal experience to share?

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24 Comments

  • Ashley Penn says:

    We currently have no insurance. Our kid’s pediatric office offers a 50% Same Day Pay discount on all visits and services. As long as you pay the same day as your appointment you get 50% off. 🙂

  • Therese says:

    If you are in need of a test or procedure, call your insurance company and ask what your options are before you schedule it.

    My doctor recently ordered some tests and gave me a list of places where I could have them done. I found out by calling my insurance company that having the tests done at a private facility would cost much less than the hospital.

    It may not be so in every case, but it was certainly worth asking…and saving about $1,000. =)

  • Pamela says:

    If your insurance is through your employer, call your company’s HR department and ask if they have any kind of Health Advocate service- sometimes these are available free to employees, and you can get a 2nd set of eyes on your bills.

    Also my understanding is that you should be able to set up a payment plan, and these are typically at no interest. Way better than paying a bill with a credit card where you’ll pay interest!

  • Ashley Busakula says:

    I also second confirming what you have been billed for. There are THOUSANDS of medical codes, and the recent update made even more, so it is very easy for a billing code to be inaccurate, especially if it’s a specialty charge and you saw a family physician so the office may not be familiar with the charge.

  • We have a Direct Primary Care doctor in our county. It’s $50 per month per adult and $15 per month per child. You can visit the doctor like 5 times a month and you have access to the doctor via email and text. She also has prescriptions in her office so you pay very little. They also have some equipment that you would find at urgent care (like an x-ray) so she can diagnose you in the office and it’s a lot cheaper than going through your insurance. I think you can just enroll the kids and it’s almost cheaper to have this service for my 3 kids than pay for 1 deductible using our insurance.

  • Teri Wells says:

    If you take any prescription medications go to the direct website ( make sure you are not on a spam site) . Look for a discount card. Almost all name brand prescription medications offer these. The card may state “pay no more than $10 per month” or something similar. So if your insurance has a copay or $40 per rx you would only pay $10.

  • Theresa says:

    Goodrx.com can save lots of money on prescriptions. My sister is an RN and found out about the site when she went for her master’s.

  • Sarah B says:

    We own a home in our local hospital taxing district. We can use those taxes paid for ER visits and for hospital surgeries and overnight stays. And for things like MRIs. You can use them at 50-100% depending on the visit type.

  • Diane says:

    This might not help your reader, but share with medical team that you don’t have extra money. I had a doctor want to prescribe a newer antibiotic after surgery and I said in had taken it before. He said what do you remember about it? I said I remember it was expensive. It was $100 I had paid. He gave me sulfa then which was $4.

  • Carolyn says:

    Check with pharmacies to see if they have low cost generics for prescriptions. For example, Walmart has a list of $4 prescriptions, Publix has low cost or even free Rx medications, and Costco’s prices are often lower than elsewhere (pretty sure you don’t have to be a member to use their pharmacy).

    • Meg says:

      Definitely a GREAT tip! I live near a Publix and love those FREE RX meds when I need them, since my insurance doesn’t cover RX! -Meg, MSM Team

  • Laurie Villotta says:

    I have had so much medical debt in my life and I am only 47, but with cancer and now doing well. I always apply for financial assistance and have been lucky to get mostly 75-80% of all my bills paid. I do not make a whole lot. Ido have to pay my balance in full after the discount. I use GoodRX for most of my prescriptions which saves me thousands every yr. This yr for the first time I am able to put my away in my HSA acct. I will be increasing the amount I put in every couple of months so hopefully early next year I will have a full yrs deductible $2700.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Another reason to be oh so careful accepting a prescription for a drug you have not taken before, is not only due to excessive costs, but it may have life altering affects from taking it. Research on your own first before taking it. We did not. Now my husband is nearing being an invalid and it appears he won’t be getting better…a friend of ours has a daughter about 15 years younger than we are and she has been an invalid and now with a caregiver even, for many years. All because she too took this drug (Cipro). We unfortunately cannot undo the harm it has caused us, but we can certainly warn others!! It SHOULD be taken off the market, but I have not heard that it has. (It must alter genes, otherwise I cannot see how the effects would not get better as the drug leaves the body). It began with my hubby having broken tendons…now he is loosing his muscles too.

  • Elizabeth says:

    For diabetics, insulin can be quite expensive in the long run. Being Costco members and getting most of our meds there, we were very surprised to find that Walmart beat our insulin price by 3 times over Costco. Yes, Costco gives a small percentage back, but it will no way be that much. Not only is it cheaper getting our insulin at Walmart WITHOUT prescription, you just walk up and tell them what you wish to buy…no name, no tracking, no questions…just a cheerful ringup and you are on your way. No insurance company overcharging, and then saying, “Oh you cannot have this today…you are a day early.” No one seems to realize that diabetics are wise to keep some extra on hand in case of bad weather. This year, we had the most snow ever (over 2 feet) and could NOT leave the house for days…if we had not had extra insulin on hand, we might not be here). So though I am not a huge Walmart fan, we are SO GRATEFUL for the opportunity to buy this out of pocket way cheaper than elsewhere and no questions asked.

  • Jenni says:

    Also, never be afraid to ask for samples! A few times when I needed a prescription, I asked for samples and the doctor was more than happy to give me some, thus a need for fewer pills and less money out of my pocket.

  • Jennifer says:

    My best tip is to pay medical bills through an HSA or Health Savings Account, if you’re eligible to open one. You set up automatic contributions into a checking account for medical bills and it comes out pre-tax. You usually need to have health insurance with a certain deductible–I think and I’m just estimating here that it needs to be $3,000 or $3,500 this year.
    Not having to pay taxes on income you’re using to pay off a medical bill takes the sting out a bit.

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