Saving money on medical expenses

It's no secret, it's been a rough year at our house. It seems to have been one thing after another that found our family tapping into our emergency fund. And most of those things fell under the medical expense category. 

For the first time in 11 years of marriage, my husband and I actually met our deductible. Our very high, head spinning deductible. It's literally never happened before. Not even the years we had new babies. 

So yeah, it's been a year full of medical expenses. And while with each step I was grateful to have insurance, I still felt the pinch and pull of each dollar as it flew out of my bank account and straight into the waiting coffers of the local emergency room, doctor's office or hospital. 

In fact, in August we came home to two unexpected medical bills. I say unexpected because we had confirmed the cost with the hospital, paid in full prior to receiving care and were still stuck with high bills. 

How do you handle that? Today I wanted to share a few things to do when you get a high medical bill. (And come back next week to talk about how to save money on prescriptions.)

If you get a large medical bill there are a few things you can do. 

1. Ask them to look again

Call the hospital or doctors office and let them know you received the bill. Tell them to please contact your insurance again to see if additional costs will be covered. 

This serves two purposes, it might prevent a second notice from coming. And you might end up having your insurance cover additional costs. Insurance companies are HUGE. Mistakes get made and a second look never hurts. 

2. Get a line item statement

Have you ever gotten a medical bill and thought "what the what??" Ask the billing department to send you a detailed bill summary. See what each item you're paying for was and confirm it's not covered by your insurance. 

In fact, your insurance should send you an EOB (explanation of benefits). This looks like a hospital bill, but instead explains what the insurance company pays for. Compare this to your bill. 

For example, I found out during my first pregnancy that my Rhogam shot was not covered. It was something my doctor said was absolutely necessary but the insurance called it therapeutic. I was able to dispute this and get it covered. 

3. Ask about a cash discount

When you get a large bill it's easy to get sticker shock! But just make a phone call and see if you can get a discount for paying the entire bill at one time. I was able to get 20% knocked off the cost of my first son's birth

It was still a lot of money, but I was able to save a lot just by asking. 

4. Ask about payment plans

Many, many hospitals will work with you on paying down your bill. You just have to ask. They will set up a reasonable payment plan, often with no interest. (This is what you want to shoot for- NO INTEREST.) 

If you're going to miss a payment plan let them know and see if they can work with you. 

5. Negotiate

Did you know you can negotiate a lower medical bill? Yup. It happens. It doesn't always happen. And it depends on where you live. But you can write the billing department and offer them a lower amount. 

If they say no, try again. Ask if there is another amount they can meet. Considering the number of people who can't or don't pay medical bills, hospitals are more likely to work with you than just a few years ago. 

Don't give up. Paying medical expenses can be scary and overwhelming but it's worth the time and effort to save money. 

What about you? What have you done to save money on large medical bills?