I saw you when you came to speak at my company several months ago. I am having trouble remembering what you said about negotiating medical bills. I recently had a health scare and have approximately $950 in emergency room bills coming due. I am nervous to call the billing department and try to negotiate because I can’t remember what the phrase was you said to use. Any advice would be very helpful. Thank you!
Thanks for reaching out. Since this is such a common question, I answered yours on The Pete the Planner Radio Show this week on 93 WIBC. Listen to the clip below, courtesy of WIBC, for my answer:
Don’t panic. Stay calm. Of all types of debt, medical is the most negotiable. The phrase is simple: “Can you do any better on the price?” That’s it. Any good negotiator will tell you that the loser always talks first, so ask the question and then keep your mouth shut. I’m a talker, so I understand that it’s hard and awkward, but from my experience, asking this question and then waiting can save you anywhere from 10-40%.
Another way to negotiate medical bills is to create leverage. Do you have enough cash to cover the bill? Let them know you can pay the bill that day if it’s under a certain amount. If you don’t have the cash to pay the bill, you can fill out a financial aid form, which if you qualify, can cut your price down and put you on a payment plan. You can also go to healthcarebluebook.com to help arm you with info. This site allows you to look up the average cost of the medical services you received. If you can prove that other facilities in the area offer the same procedure for less, you can use that to help you get a discount.
Last tip: Don’t wait! Medical bills can go to collections faster than any other bill. You need to act quickly. Call as soon as you get the bill.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.