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There is no doubt that healthcare can be quite expensive. Not everyone has insurance and, even if they do, it doesn't mean they can afford the charges. Can a patient negotiate fees with a healthcare provider? The answer is yes, but it's going to take some research, a positive attitude and possibly quite a few phone calls. When you handle the situation in a proper way, you may actually be able to lower your costs so that both you and the provider are happy.
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Formulate a Payment Plan
Before you even try to negotiate fees, figure out what you can pay and how often; you don't want to agree to something you later realize you can't pay. The more often you can pay, the better. For example, instead of saying “I can pay $200 a month,” say “I can pay $50 each week, so $200 a month if not more.” The “if not more” at the end of the sentence is important – it shows the provider an extra commitment to paying the bill, that if you have a little extra money that month you're willing to put it toward the bill. As an added bonus, what you pay may be considered tax deductible. In order to know for sure, make sure to brush up on the IRS tax rules for deductible medical expenses.
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Talk to the Right Person
Don't call the office and ask whomever picks up the phone if they can make the arrangements, because the answer is likely to be “No” or “I'm not sure.” If you talk to someone who has no control over the billing, it's not very likely you're going to get the response you want. Things can get lost in translation (think of the game “telephone”), and you probably won't be able to convey all your thoughts and questions in only a one or two sentence message, which the person then has to pass on to someone who makes the financial decisions and then return a message back to you. When you call, speak to the provider yourself or to the person in charge of billing – if the person isn't available, ask that they call you back.
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Ask for What You Want
If you want to ask to negotiate fees, you can't be shy about doing so. When you get the right person on the phone, start out by saying why you're asking before you actually ask to negotiate the fees. When people are asked for something, many have a tendency to hear the request but only halfheartedly pay attention to the explanation, which is usually the most important part. For example, say “I've been sick lately and missed some work, so money is really tight. I would really appreciate if you would be willing to negotiate the fees.”
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Compromise with the Provider
You have to be willing to compromise with the provider when you're negotiating your fees. You can't ask for what you want and expect to get it – compromising is important. If you can, always ask to pay slightly lower than you can actually afford. If you can easily afford to pay $200 a month, ask if you can pay $150 a month. Should the doctor say that amount is too low and asks if you can pay $250, agree to it – it's only slightly more than what you can easily pay and, if you pay a little extra each month on your own accord, it helps prove your reliability.
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Have a Positive Attitude
One of the most important things to prepare yourself with is a positive attitude. When you ask to negotiate, don't sound entitled – the provider doesn't actually have to negotiate the fees at all, so any help you get is a positive thing. Be genuinely appreciative; if you have a problem making a payment in the future, people are usually more willing to cut a break to those who appreciate the one they were given in the first place.
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When you see the initial fees, don't feel discouraged. Can a patient negotiate fees with a healthcare provider? Absolutely, and most providers will be willing to work with their patients because they genuinely want to help. Some will also do it because they know it will make it easier for them to get paid. Unless you talk to your provider while you're in the office, you're likely going to have to resort to a phone call, so be careful of your tone as well – misinterpretations can happen easily. If you want to save even more money, there are quite a few money management tips to help further lower your healthcare costs.