5 Tips to Lower Your Medical Bills
If you or someone you love has suffered a health-related crisis, you know how frightening and overwhelming the experience can be. There is often no time to wait in seeking medical attention and decisions on life-saving measures and the best course of treatment need to be made quickly.
For many families, the biggest worries tend to accumulate after the initial medical crisis is over – in the form of expensive medical bills. Read our tips on how to lower your parent’s or senior loved one’s medical bills during this time.
How to Lower Your Medical Bills After a Hospital Stay
According to Business Insider, the average hospital stay in the United States costs just over $10,700 and the most expensive health conditions also happen to be some of the most common reasons why seniors are admitted to hospital.
For instance, the following conditions that primarily affect seniors are consistently ranked within the top 10 reasons for hospital admission:
- Pneumonia: Ranked #2 out of 10 and costs an average of $9,793
- Osteoarthritis: Ranked #3 out of 10 and costs an average of $15,897
- Congestive Heart Failure: Ranked #4 out of 10 and costs an average of $11,500
- Cardiac Dysrhythmia: Ranked #7 out of 10 and costs an average of $10,191
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Ranked #8 out of 10 and costs an average of $17,868.
In addition to this, the lack of consumer guidelines and transparency in hospital pricing make a hospitalization even more overwhelming.
While most of us don’t expect to use the term “shopping around” in the same sentence as “healthcare,” for many Americans doing just that is necessary in order to reduce the exorbitant fees for medical care.
You never know when an expensive health crisis may strike your family, so check out the following five tips to help lower your medical bills:
Prior to Admission
In many circumstances (such as elective surgeries, non-emergency procedures and preventative treatments) you will have the opportunity to investigate budget-friendly medical options prior to your hospital admission.
1. Review your insurance plan.
Most insurance companies should be able to provide you with written information on what is covered and not covered when it comes to medical procedures and hospitalization under your policy. You will be able to know in advance the monetary amount (or percentage) of coverage you have and a qualified agent should be able to answer any questions or concerns you may have in regards to deductibles, Medicare and up-front payments etc.
2. Shop around.
There are often major differences in costs between competing medical care providers and hospitals for the same services and care. Next Avenue suggests contacting “at least two health care providers offering the procedures you seek” and inquiring about the out-of-pocket costs. You can also check online to see if the hospital or facility you are interested in has posted information about their fees. According to the American Hospital Association (AMA), there are currently 42 states that require their hospitals to make information on charges and payment rates available to the public. If fees are not posted online, you can request a written estimate.
Request an Itemized Bill
3. Ask for an itemized bill.
Hospitals and medical facilities are required to provide you with an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) as a part of your medical bill. They are not, however, required to give you a complete breakdown of the inpatient fees and services you incurred during your stay. An itemized bill will allow you to see exactly what you are being billed for and ensure you are not being billed for care or supplies you did not receive. An article published by Time offers great tips of how to spot common medical billing errors.
Upon Receiving the Bill
4. Ask if you qualify for discounts.
As with any transaction, there are often discounts or price reductions available if you know enough to ask. A woman interviewed by Time shares her experience: “The doctor I go to is part of a hospital network that automatically gives you 10% off if you pay the bill over the phone… you have to ask for the discount, but it’s an easy way to save money.” Some hospitals also offer a reduced (often unadvertised) rates if you pay your bill in cash, or in one lump sum.
5. Investigate crowdfunding options.
In certain circumstances, medical bills can spin out of control and rack up into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Crowdfunding may be the best hope for ever paying off debts such as these. The risk with crowdfunding is minimal – you are simply putting yourself and your story out there for the world to see and, hopefully, others choose to support you. There are numerous crowdfunding websites that allow you to share your story and a summary of how the funds will be used. From there, you simply share with your network of friends and beyond and hope for the best.
Receiving your bill should not be the most traumatic aspect of your hospital experience. Try to apply these tips the next time your receive a medical invoice.
Do you know of any tips on lowering medical bills that we’ve missed? If so, please share them with us in the comments below.
We Can Help! Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living.