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Negotiating Medical Bills

MoneyWise

Christian talk radio with Rob West

April 11, 2022

A recent survey showed that more than one in three adults carry medical debt to some degree. Today on MoneyWise, we’ll let you in on something that could help. STAGGERING MEDICAL DEBT That survey was published onHealthcare. com. It also revealed that more than half of those with overdue bills carried balances over $1, 000. The total outstanding medical debt for the nation may be as high as$140 billion. But it might surprise you to know that you don’t always have to pay your full medical bill. You negotiated to have the bill lowered. As Christians, we must always pay our debts. Proverbs 16: 8 reads Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice. But it’s certainly not a sin to ask for a discount. The truth is, many medical providers want to be paid now just as much as they want to be paid in full. More on that in a minute. You’re probably wondering how exactly you go about asking to have your outstanding medical bills lowered. I’ll give you the steps, and you can do these even after your insurance company has paid its part of the bill. STEPS TO SEEKING A REDUCTION OF MEDICAL DEBT Before you pay anything, first get an Explanation of Benefits, or EOB. You may have to ask for one from your medical provider. You need to go over every bill and the EOB to make sure there aren’t any mistakes. Insurance companies and medical billing departments often make mistakes, sometimes even double-charging you for a visit or procedure. If you find something that seems out-of-place, talk to the office manager to have the item explained. As we mentioned, medical providers are keenly interested in receiving their money as soon as possible, and that means you have negotiating power. They’re often willing to give you a discount if you offer to pay a lump sum right away. A reduction of up to 20% isn’t uncommon. But you have to do your homework before you ask for the discount. Let’s say you owe $1500. You’d be plenty happy with a 20% reduction, but you should probably aim a bit higher to start, say 30%. Multiply your $1500 bill by 0. 3. That comes to $450. You subtract that from the original 1500 and you get $1, 050. Round it down to a thousand and offer to pay that now if it closes the matter. Expect some pushback. This is a negotiation, after all. And let’s say they offer to reduce your bill by $300 instead of $500. The reduced bill is now $1200 or 20% off. You’ve met your goal. Your results may vary, of course, but a survey by Lending Tree of more than 1500 Americans with medical debt showed that a whopping 93%of those who negotiated their bills had them reduced or eliminated. And here’s another tip: The higher the bill, the deeper the discount you should ask for. For instance, if you owe $5, 000 or $10, 000, start by asking for a 50% reduction if you pay the reduced amount in full today. When you agree on a new figure, get a confirmation number and make the payment immediately. Of course, you must have the money on hand to do that, and you should never put medical debt on a credit card. Your doctor usually won’t charge interest, but credit card issuers always do. But what if you don’t have a big chunk of money to pay even the reduced amount now? You can still negotiate a lower bill by offering to set up a payment plan. Once you have the new amount, you’ll have to negotiate how many months you’ll have to pay it off. When you reach an agreement, make sure you stick to it. Keep in mind that you may not be negotiating directly with your doctor’s office. Many providers outsource their billing to third party operations. If they’re not willing to negotiate, you can try calling the doctor’s office directly and make your pitch with the office manager there. Here’s another approach you can take: Many hospitals have financial assistance for low income families and individuals. If you meet the requirements, you could have your bill reduced significantly. Call the hospital to get more information about available financial aid. Now, a final note: As you go about negotiating a lower bill, always be polite and cheerful. As the saying goes, you catch more bees with honey than vinegar. On today’s program, Rob also answers listener questions: ●How do you determine whether it's wise to use savings or investment money to pay off auto debt? ●How do you approach your tax requirements as an independent contractor? ●When does investing in an annuity make sense? RESOURCES MENTIONED ●Find a Certified Kingdom Advisor

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