Money Saver #2: Ask for the Discount (esp. on Medical Bills!)

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How to Save Money on Medical Bills

In case you’re just tuning in, my household is currently in the middle of trying to save $1000 in 100 days, a challenge I created to stretch my frugal muscles and finally make some headway on our larger goal of trying to save $10,000 in our emergency fund.

The $1000 in 100 goal was going to be challenging as it was (since we’d been making very little headway at all in our savings over the last several months), but what’s made it even MORE of a challenge is that we’re doing it right at the same time we expected the hospital bills to come in after the recent birth of our son. While we had stashed away some money to help cover those costs, we hadn’t set aside quite enough, so now I’ll REALLY be impressed if we’re able to get to the full $1000 before the deadline of October 24th! (For the record, we’ve currently saved $402 toward our goal, and we’re 36 days in.)

One way I’m trying to make it more feasible for us to pay the hospital bills in full AND save the $1000 is to negotiate costs wherever possible. In early adulthood, I had always assumed that once you got a hospital bill, that was that–you owed that money and there was nothing you could do about it. However, my mom gave me an excellent tip that I’ve tried to remember to use ever since with any kinds of medical bills (including at the dentist)—

If you’re able to pay the bill in full all at once, call the financial office directly and ask if they’ll give you a discount if you pay the full amount that day.

Sometimes they’ll tell you that the insurance has already negotiated with them to lower costs and that they won’t do it further.

Sometimes they’ll just say no.

But sometimes (and more often than you think!), they’ll offer you a discount at a set percentage.

This is what happened with our first big hospital bill.

The original bill had come through at $806.76, and even though we’ve already paid off three bills from the delivery (through my ob doctor’s office), we still had $516.35 left in our medical fund (a savings account we set up specifically to save for all the medical/dental costs we accrue) for this one. I hadn’t any luck with the ob’s office with getting a discount (since our insurance had already negotiated them down), but when I called the hospital, they said they do a one-time (per year) discount of 5% on the bill of your choice.

Since I knew this would likely be the biggest (or close to the biggest) bill we’d get from them, I went ahead and took it, which brought down the bill amount to $766.42.

Now, using the money we’d already set aside for that, we only have to cash flow $250.07 to stay on track with our goals, which is a little more do-able than paying nearly $300. Every little bit helps!

(A side note to how I usually pay these bills–since I know we’ll rarely have $250 or some other such higher number lying around in our checking account for the month, and since I try not to dip into our emergency fund unless we absolutely have to, I usually charge the amount to our credit card on one of the first days of a new billing cycle. Then, I’ll pay as much of it as I can before the bill technically comes due for it (since the charge will be on the next statement and not the current one), and I’ll pay the rest of it off when it’s actually due. This way, I never carry a balance on my credit card that I’ll owe interest on, and since I have a credit card with rewards, I get some points towards that too. Of course, I recommend this only if you can absolutely pay it in full every single time by the due date! It’s not worth it to take a 5% discount at the hospital only to turn around and owe it to a credit card company at 18% interest.)

I tried the same tactic with my bill at the dentist just yesterday. Due to a technicality I didn’t know about (that the dental insurance we have–EMI Health, which I don’t recommend–doesn’t pay out anything until after you’ve met a 6-month waiting period, not just made 6 months’ worth of payments), we were now needing to foot the entire bill for the dental work I had done in June. I’d called the insurance company (twice) to try to get them to be reasonable (since I HAD made 6 months’ worth of payments with them but was 13 days shy of having waited 6 months), but they refused to pay anything on the bill. So I called my dentist’s office, explained the situation, and asked the financial secretary if she could lower my bill at all. She said she could knock off $16 of it to take it down to $250 even, and while it’s not as much as I’d hoped for, it’s still a discount that I got just by asking for it.

The moral of the story?

It never hurts to ask.

Also, make sure you read the fine print of your insurance contract. Grrrr….

Do you have any tips or strategies for saving on medical or dental costs?