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How to Negotiate a Medical Debt Without Insurance

By on March 7, 2014 in Health Insurance, Insurance

How to Negotiate a Medical Debt Without InsuranceMillions of people in America have no health insurance coverage – and many millions more have deductibles that are so high it can often seem as if they don’t have any insurance either. How to negotiate a medical bill without insurance can be a more common requirement than we generally assume.

5 Tips for Negotiating Medical Debt

If you’re in this situation right now, here some tips on how to make it happen.

Negotiate Cost Before Treatment

When you go to a doctor, clinic, or hospital, it’s important that you let them know up front that you have no health insurance. This will alert them that alternate arrangements need to be made. It may even be a sign to them that cost will be a factor, and they will have to adjust treatment accordingly (that could mean not ordering “just in case“ therapies or tests).

You don’t want to wait until the day you arrive at the medical provider’s office to begin this process. This is something that you should initiate upon making contact in scheduling your appointment. The financial arrangement should be agreed upon by all parties, and done so at the earliest time possible.

This will also give you time to make counteroffers in the event that your first payment option is not accepted. It will also buy you some time to come up with the cash that you will need when you arrive at the office.

Pay Up Front and Ask for a Cash Discount

If it is a routine doctor visit, you should plan to pay up front. You should also ask them if there is a cash discount. Never be afraid to do this, since medical practices are required to discount services as part of health insurance group network provisions. These discounts can be anywhere from 30% to 80% of the bill for the service provided, so you should use this as a guideline in asking for your own discount as a result of your paying cash.

There is another benefit to medical providers when you pay cash: they don’t have to wait for payment the way they do with when they have the file through an insurance company.

Keep these background factors in mind, and be bold in asking for a discount. If you came in with health insurance, the provider would have to give the discount anyway, so never be afraid ask for it upfront.

Set Up a Payment Plan for Unpaid Balances

If it’s a larger medical procedure, like surgery or high-cost tests, you should try to set up a payment plan for the amount that exceeds your upfront cash payment. Medical practices are used to working with payment plans as they have become common throughout the industry.

You should set up a payment plan before incurring the expense, that what you are certain that you will have a payment level you can afford. Pay as much up front as you can, and be sure to negotiate a discount on the total package as well.

When you have a payment plan in place, make sure that you make your payments each and every month on time as a show of good faith. You never know when you’ll need to use a medical provider again in the future, and the plan that you establish now could be the basis of your service later on.

Offer to Settle for Less Than What is Owed

If you need treatment, but can afford to pay for it, you could try to settle for less than the full amount due. The first order of business is always to make any payments that you promise to make. But failing that you can offer to settle on the outstanding balance.

This is another common practice in the healthcare industry. Medical bills are astronomical, and if you don’t have health insurance the likelihood of you paying a very large bill are remote. Healthcare providers will often prefer accepting a partial settlement to no payment at all. It may be possible to settle a medical debt for $0.50 on the dollar – or less.

You should hold this as a no other way option, and use it only for those times when your back is up against the wall and there’s no other choice.

Get Charitable Help and Ask for Debt Forgiveness

Healthcare providers, especially hospitals, sometimes take on a certain number of charitable cases. You should not expect this to happen anytime you need to go to hospital, but it’s always worth asking about. Let the facility know upfront that your financial situation is very tight, that you need the procedure in question, but that it is very unlikely that you will be able to pay for it.

Outside of medical providers, you might be able get help from certain government agencies, local charities, or the church you attend. Approach each of these organizations, let them know what the requirement is, as well as your lack of ability to pay, and ask for any assistance they might be able provide.

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