Thursday, September 11, 2008

Saving Money on Medical Bills

Microsoft News Money recently carried a good article on how to save money on medical bills, an article from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine titled, “Save thousands on medical bills.” See The article contains several hints on how to save on medical bills that I have previously given in my column Dose of Reality: —and one I had not thought of to include.

That sound suggestion is to not pay any questionable hospital bills by credit card. The reason is simple: once you do that, you lose any ability to bargain. You have, in a sense, already agreed to the debt. Also, do not agree with a hospital’s suggestion to accept a line of credit with an outside lender, because now your debt is off the hospital’s books. The debt is to the lender, not the hospital, so you have no bargaining power at all.

Two other good suggestions contained in the MSN Money article are:

1—Check medical bills for double charging and wrong diagnoses that affect insurance payments or those you make directly.

2—Don’t hesitate to bargain, because hospitals typically charge about three times what they expect to get paid (It varies with the hospital, but that is the average.)

The article concludes with a suggestion that would sound ridiculous to a citizen of any other country with universal health care: hire a “claims assistance professional” to help you negotiate with your medical providers. Yes, because the system is dysfunctional, they will cut your bills, and collect 25 percent of the proceeds while doing it. Only in America are we willing to put up with this nonsense.

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