Here Come The Bills
I had minor surgery done back in June, and the bills for the procedure came in the mail a couple weeks ago. I got one bill from the surgeon, another from the anesthesiology team, and yet another from the hospital that owns the surgery center. After reviewing the Explanation of Benefits (check out my post on how to read and EOB here) to make sure the charges were accurate, I was ready to pay the bills. But I didn’t pay them right away. I spent a few minutes on the phone first, and ended up saving 25%! Let me explain.
A Billing Surprise
Before my surgery, the hospital’s billing office called me to review my personal information and confirm my health insurance. He also wanted me to pay for the service up front. I told him that I don’t prepay for things like that. I think of medical procedures like car repairs – if the problem’s not fixed, I’m not paying. He was very understanding, but here’s the part that blew me away. He told me to call him back when I received the bill, because there may be some discounts available. What?!? I’ve never had that happen before. A large, faceless organization offering me a discount right off the bat? I was surprised and skeptical, but I saved his direct number anyway.
Bring On The Discounts
Fast forward to this morning. We just returned from vacation, and I had a pile of mail that I needed to get to. In the pile were the three bills. I took them and my phone out into the backyard (I like to walk around while I talk) and prepared to pay full price. I called the number I had stored, and I explained who I was and why I was calling. He looked up my account, and then offered to give me a 30% discount. Just like that. My bill went from $1205 to $844 in an instant! He said they would write off the other $361. I paid the reduced bill with my rewards card*, thanked him, and that was that.
All You Have To Do Is Ask
I had never thought to ask for a discount on medical services before. I’ve heard of other strategies for saving on medical bills, but they seem geared towards the uninsured or those with low income. Things like “Offer to pay the doctor in cash in exchange for a discount” or “Ask about their assistance programs.” As it turns out, discounts on medical care are relatively commonplace, but you have to ask for them. Which is exactly what I did today with the other two bills, with varying success.
The anesthesiology team’s billing department would only give discounts to uninsured patients. I paid the full bill and moved on. The surgeon’s billing company was willing to play ball though. I was extra nice to the operator, named Oscar. I said “Hi Oscar, my name is ______ and I’m calling to pay my bill. Before I pay though, I wanted to see if there were any discounts available that I might be eligible for.” He tapped on his computer for a second, and then told me that they’d be willing to take 20% off the bill. No questions asked. I only owed $121 to the surgeon, so that 20% only equaled $24, but that’s $24 that I would have had to pay if I hadn’t asked.
It Never Hurts To Try
In total, I saved $386 off of my $1536 bill. That’s a savings of 25%. To put it another way, I earned $386 for less than 10 minutes of my time. That’s $2,316 per hour. All I had to do was get over my fear of asking for something I want (I’m definitely an introvert).
To recap, even if you have health insurance and think you make too much to qualify for a discount, ask anyway. As the anesthesiologist’s billing operator told me, “It never hurts to try!”
*Better yet, pay your medical bills with your tax-free flexible spending account or health savings account and save even more!