What are some tips to reduce medical bills?

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PatientAdvocateFoundation (Organization (Verified) ) - 07 / 26 / 2012

Often medical treatment and care can be very expensive and put strain on a patient’s budget. Here are a few strategies patients can use to manage their medical debt:

Look for prompt-pay discounts: Offer the medical facility a reasonable, but specific amount of money upfront as payment in full for services. Some facilities may be willing to accept a smaller amount of money if it means they will collect at the time services are rendered.

Apply for financial assistance: Ask your provider if they have an application you can complete to receive a discount or write-off on your accounts.

Arrange an affordable payment plan: Speak with the facility’s billing department to negotiate a monthly payment plan that is feasible for your budget to prevent accounts from going to a collection agency.

Participate in Screening Programs: Ask your local Health Department about free screening programs such as the Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. If diagnosed through these programs, patients will be referred to covered treatment options.

Manage your cost during treatmen: By asking questions and talking to your doctors, you can frequently find quality care at an equal or lower price. Walk-in retail clinics (like Minute Clinic and RediClinic), ambulatory surgery centers, outpatient services, and stand-alone imaging and blood diagnostic facilities, for example, can all be less expensive than the same services at hospitals and the doctor’s office.

Reduce future and current medical costs through a healthy lifestyle: Many patients see a reduction in their need for medications and medical care by improving their health in general through lifestyle and non-medical means. Be sure to maintain healthy habits when it comes to diet, exercise, weight, social behaviors and stress management. These can not only save dollars in terms of necessary treatment, but will also give your body the best internal tools when responding to any needed medication or medical action.

In terms of reducing expenses on pharmaceuticals, speak to your doctor to ask about lower cost and comparable medication alternatives, the use of generic brands, bulk discounts, and access to medication samples to ease the burden of cost. In addition, there may be assistance programs to aid in the cost of your prescriptions.

PHARMACY CHECKER An online resource that helps you identify, locate and compare reputable online pharmacies. www.pharmacychecker.com 718- 554-3067 Also allows patients to compare prices for medications among various pharmacy providers.

RX AID PRESCRIPTION ASSISTANCE Patient assistance programs that aid uninsured patients get their prescriptions at low or no cost. www.rxaid.us 877-610-9360

RX ASSIST A comprehensive directory of patient assistance programs run by pharmaceutical companies to provide free medications to people that cannot afford to buy their medicine. www.rxassist.org

STATE PHARMACEUTICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS (SPAP) Many states have state-sponsored subsidies and discounts for seniors, disabled, uninsured and others. The National Conference of State Legislatures maintains a list of state specific prescription programs with a list of eligibility requirements. 202-624-5400 www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/statepharmaceutical-assistance-programs-2011.aspx

DRUG ASSISTANCE CARDS /DISCOUNT PHARMACY CARDS These discount cards are offered to patients free of charge and give additional discounts on the out-of-pocket cost of medications. These cards tend to be easy to use and do not require forms to fill out or waiting periods to use. Many are offered by the pharmacy directly, including Kmart, Costco, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc, or offered as a result of a community partnership. FamilyWize, YourRXCard and NationalDrugCard are examples of discount cards not tied to any specific pharmacy.

Patient Advocate Foundation has written a number of tip sheets and brochures relevant to this topic located. I encourage you to take a look at www.patientadvocate.org/publications, specifically:

National Uninsured Resource Directory – *(the first few chapters discuss low cost options for care and services )

Greater Understanding: Back to Basics: How to Discuss the Cost of Health Care Treatments With Your Provider
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MartineEhrenclou (Friend) - 07 / 27 / 2011

Start by talking to your doctor/medical professional. Explain your financial situation and ask if he/she can reduce fees. You'd be surprised how open some are to this. Some doctors will give you a 20% discount on their fees if you pay within the first 30 days of service. All you have to do is ask.
If you are to be in a hospital or surgery center and you will not be using your insurance, you can negotiate with them. You can start by offering 60% of their fee and then settle on paying 70% of their fee.
If you have Medicare and your doctor/medical professional does not take Medicare, ask for a discount. It may not always work but it's worth trying.
Doctors, hospitals, surgery centers and other medical professionals would much rather be paid upfront so if you do not have insurance and are negotiating a cash pay, you are in a pretty good position to negotiate a discount.
You can always ask for a payment plan. I have done this myself. Not a discount but at least you don't have to pay everything up front.
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