Many consumers underestimate the cost of health care, which could put them in hot water when it comes time to pay their bills. There are about 220 million consumers who have an account with one or more of the three major consumer reporting agencies, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Debts related to hospital bills and medical providers appeared on almost 1 in 5 consumer credit reports. Depending on the balance owed, some patients are at risk for going into medical debt, which could damage their credit score if they are unable to pay their bill in full. With the high cost of medical debt, consumers should try to save money before they head to the hospital and when they get their bills.
Here are six tips to save on medical bills:
1. Negotiate Hospital Bills
According to WebMD, patients can slash their health care payments by discussing their inability to pay with their respective medical services provider in the hopes of finding an alternative payment option. The site suggested patients look for doctors similar to how they shop for everyday items – by searching for the best deal.
2. Review Insurance Coverage and Networks
Some doctors and hospitals are not specifically covered in insurance networks. Before setting up an appointment as a new patient or heading to a health care center, look up on your insurer’s website which providers are in your network. During this time, you can also see how much your insurance will cover certain procedures.
3. Use a Hospital Cost Comparison Tool
It can be difficult for patients to learn how much treatment costs before getting their bills if their hospitals don’t offer cost estimations, so use tools to compare prices across hospitals around the nation. Based on government studies, OpsCost lets you input your location and the type of procedure to see how much the total would be. For example, while Hospital 1 may bill $285 for an eye test or treatment, another hospital nearby may charge $162 – saving you more than $120 on the same procedure.
4. Ask About Outpatient Treatment
While there are some procedures that can only be performed in the hospital, research whether there are forms of treatment that are available through an outpatient center, Medical Billing Advocates of America suggested. Ask your doctor about this option to reduce the cost of treatment at a hospital.
5. Look for Pharmacies with Generic Medication
With the expense of certain medications, you can save money by seeking pharmacies that offer generic versions of prescriptions. This is especially useful for patients with chronic illnesses who will need medications for the long term. WebMD also noted there are some programs that will offer medications for free.
6. Determine the Possibility of a Payment Schedule
Another way to lower your level of medical debt is to ask about setting up a payment schedule for current charges. Contact the billing department to see if you can split the bill into monthly installments to better manage your budget and avoid scrambling to find money.