If you have a planned hospital need, you aren’t at the mercy of the billing department: if it makes sense for you, you can pay cash and save—sometimes up to 75 percent! In this article, we’ll look at how.
Here at Uncovered, we get it. All those tests, procedures, and surgeries are stressful enough in premise alone. Then, you factor in the cost, the fear of medical debt (and the fact that it can feel impossible to know how much you’ll owe ahead of time), and your stress level goes through the roof, right?
It doesn’t have to be like that. With a few calls and by asking the right questions, you can learn your all-in price and determine if it’s smarter (and cheaper) to pay in cash.
When it doesn’t make sense to pay in cash
Look at what kind of plan you have. If you have a full plan that covers preventative care, you’re safe. Or, if it’s early in the year and you have a low deductible that you know you will hit—and need to hit to account for more upcoming expenses during that calendar year—you’re also safe. Nothing to do. (Just make sure you stay in network!)
When it does make sense to pay in cash
If you have short-term insurance, it almost never covers preventative care, so it makes sense to find out the cash price. If you have a deductible you know you will not meet during the calendar year and are having a non-preventative procedure, it also makes sense to find out the cash price. You’ll be paying it in cash anyway, so why not pay less?
Here’s how to find out the cash price:
Step One: Call the surgery center or physician and say you’d like to negotiate.
Step Two: Ask who is involved in the procedure, what services you will receive, and get a breakdown of those costs. For example, for Eric’s colonoscopy, they broke it down for him all the way to the cost per polyp removal.
Step Three: Tell them you’d like to negotiate an all-in price to pay on the day of service.
Step Four: Save big money!
These Tips in Action
Eric Neuville is the perfect example of what to do when it comes to negotiating hospital bills. When his doctor referred him for a colonoscopy, he knew it wouldn’t be covered under his short-term medical insurance because his plan didn’t pay for preventative care at all. He also knew his deductible was high–$8,000—and that he wasn’t going to meet it.
Eric’s doctor told him he wasn’t sure how much the colonoscopy would cost. What he refers to as his “sort-of” insurance carrier also told him they didn’t know (and wouldn’t until the surgery center billed them). The common refrain was that the procedure had to be done for them to know—which, according to Eric, was ridiculous. And he would know, as a twenty-five year veteran of the insurance industry who ran product development for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Eric’s wife called the surgery center and asked for the all-in cash price on a colonoscopy. They broke it down for her: if they paid in full on the day of service, it would be $1000 cash, a savings of almost 70 percent.
The day of the surgery, Eric walked in and told the receptionist he was quoted a cash price of $1,000. He gave them two cards: his insurance card and his payment.
When the couple later got a bill with a “discounted” price of over $3,000 for the surgery, Eric had to remind them that he’d already paid—and that he hasn’t paid nearly that much.
It wasn’t the couple’s first time using the cash method to save. When Eric’s wife had a hip and knee replacement due to arthritis, they got another 75 percent discount by paying a quoted all-in price up front.
What Eric Has To Say About Negotiating
Eric is an advocate for healthcare consumerism not just when it involves his bank account.
“We need to be as active in our healthcare choices as we are when we make a choice about what television to buy next,” he says. “We have to challenge ourselves. I have zero patience for the ‘I have insurance, so I don’t have to worry about it’ mindset. That drives up costs for us all.”