Negotiating Medical Bills Could Seriously Save You Money

Monday, May 4th 2015, 11:28 pm
By: Craig Day

What happens if you get sick or injured and you need immediate medical help, but can't pay the hospital and doctor bills?

It's one of the top reasons for bankruptcy in America, but there are ways you can bargain to get the bills lowered.

Years ago, when his son Andrew turned 13, Harry Layden faced a predicament; Andrew had to see a pediatric kidney stone specialist and Layden thought he was covered by a new insurance policy.

"His surgery that he had to get happened a day before the health insurance would kick in, so he's not covered," he said.

Layden ended up with a $7,000 hospital bill, but he offered to pay them less.

"I'm offering you $4,000 in cash, and, of course she said no they couldn't do that, so I said I'm going to pay you $50 a month until it's paid off, and that's the best I can do," Layden said.

The hospital ended up taking the lump sum payoff, netting Layden a $3,000 savings.

Fast forward six years, and Andrew got kidney stones again.

Layden's insurance company had put a rider on the policy, saying any future kidney issues for Andrew wouldn't be covered.

"Emergency room bill came to $7,000. For three hours. $7,000," said Layden.

This time he offered $2,000 in cash and they took it, saving him $5,000.

Layden is fortunate he had money available to pay off the bills at a much lower cost, saving thousands of dollars. But, what if you don't have enough in savings to settle medical debts?

Financial expert, Chris Hogan works on nationally known radio host and financial expert Dave Ramsey's team. He said the worst thing to do is ignore the bill.

If medical debt collectors are calling, Hogan said you need to have a proactive conversation with providers.

"Let them know exactly where you are, what your situation is, and begin to communicate what you can do about it. Don't let them tell you what you have to pay, pay what you can," said Hogan.

He also said you should call to check in each month, as you get extra money in, pay a little extra and if you negotiate a settlement, make sure you get it in writing.

"A lot of times, they'll throw out things just talking with you to try to find out how much money can you get your hands on at this point in time, so slow down, if they won't put it in writing, it's not real," Hogan said.

In Layden's case, bargaining with the hospital worked out well and seriously saved him money.

"You just have to go and ask. You have to ask them, ‘Can we work out some kind of a deal,'" Layden said.

We reached out to the American Hospital Association and major area hospitals for a position on negotiated medical bills.

St John, the only one to get back to us, said, in part, it must be diligent in getting paid for services, while remaining sensitive to the needs of those who are unable to pay.

It's their policy to provide financial assistance, including discounted or sometimes free services, for individuals who are uninsured or who have a demonstrated need in excess of insurance, personal resources or funds available through medical programs.