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Reduce Your Medical Expenses Using the ABCs

Posted Apr 06 2009 11:15pm
Many of you are struggling to make ends meet while your health care expenses continue to rise. If you are well informed and you do your homework, you might be able to reduce your medical expenses by following some simple tips. Just remember A-B-C-D.

A sk the provider upfront (before services are delivered) for a price break. Each provider has their own rules about negotiating bills, and you should always ask. Explain your circumstances and offer to pay cash at time of service or develop a payment plan.

B ill review. Be sure to review your medical bills for possible errors. I can’t tell you how many times I found small errors on my medical bills just by casually browsing through the detail. As soon as the bill arrives, read through all the line items and make sure that you are being charged the correct price and charged only for services you received. Medical billing errors occur all the time. Why pay more than you have to? I am assuming you already review many of your household bills (cell phone, utilities, cable, appliances, groceries, auto insurance) for accuracy. Treat your medical bills with the same level of scrutiny.

C ompare prices using online tools. Insurers sometimes provide their members with tools to look up out-of-pocket costs for a specific plan. Other online tools are available to give you an idea of a fair or estimated price for a specific service. The more you know about fair pricing, the better price you will be able to negotiate. In addition tooutofpocket.combe sure to check outhealthcarebluebook.com, AMA CPT online, andcosthelper.comto look up prices for services. For a more complete list of price tools, refer to the thislistof price transparency tools. Remember also that where you go to receive care can also make a big difference in your costs. Emergency-room visits tend to cost $300 to $1000, compared with $150 at an urgent-care center, $65 to $75 at a doctor’s office, and $35 to $45 at a convenience-care clinic. For non-emergencies, it pays to call your insurer’s 24-hour advice hotline for guidance on where to go for care. Make sure the facility and provider are in your health plan’s network. In fact, don’t wait for an emergency to find the nearest ER or urgent care center in your network. Look it up now and keep this information handy so you can easily refer to it in case of an emergency, when it is often difficult to make cost effective decisions.

D iscounts can make a big difference. You should make the most of discounts that are available to you from your insurer, dental/vision programs, prescription medications, and incentives from your employer. All these discounts help reduce your medical bills. Many insurers offer discounts on services to promote healthy lifestyles, including gym memberships, smoking-cessation and weight loss programs, chiropractic service and acupuncture. Ask your insurer or employer about these programs. Providers also offer discounts for paying in cash, or paying at time of service.

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