Maximize your HSA e-Newsletter
Vol. 16, Issue 4
How to Avoid Surprise Medical Bills
Five quick tips that can save you thousands
It’s a strange world to live in, where even the most well-informed, well-prepared health care consumers can find themselves blindsided by unexpected medical charges. Indeed, it seems like every time we shine a light on a shady practice, predatory policy, or ridiculous fee, the modern health care complex finds an all-new way to fit their hands into our pockets.
Staying ahead of the curve requires both research and forethought, but here I’ve managed to boil it down to a handful of simple, executable tips that could save you serious bucks, maybe even right away.
Five Ways to Avoid Hidden Health Care Costs
1.) Know Your Coverage, Inside and Out
Step one might sound a bit overly-intuitive, but you’d be surprised at just how many people have little to no idea what kind of benefits are available to them with the coverage they already have. For instance, most Americans are completely unaware of the preventative care services that are offered by most health insurance plans. Annual checkups, health screenings, vaccines, and even gym membership discounts are often available for no copay. The only real trick is knowing they exist!
2.) Insist on In-Network People (And Places)
One of the most commonly told horror stories we hear around the office is that of the diligent, prepared individual who goes into a procedure confident that their insurance is going to cover everything, only to wake up weeks later to find a massive hospital bill in the mail. What gives? they think. My surgeon was in-network. I’m certain of it!
Yeah, well, while your surgeon may have been in-network, your anesthesiologist wasn’t. At somewhere around $1,500, that’s a pretty expensive oversight.
Doctors and health professionals are not the only thing that needs to be in-network either. Many labs and testing facilities are not covered by all networks and could lead to additional charges if you don’t make sure your doctor is paying attention to your network needs.
3.) Take Control of Your Health Care by ‘Shopping Around’
The remarkable opacity of hospital billing procedures is one of the most frustrating things about the American health care industry and, in my opinion, crosses the line into an outright obstruction of our given rights as Americans. By demanding up-front pricing and comparing the different ‘hidden’ fees that exist between different providers, it is possible to not only save hundreds on individual procedures, but also force the hospitals to compete for our business and hopefully encourage a lasting change in the industry.
4.) Watch Out for Facility Fees
This is a sneaky one. Depending on where your care is rendered, some billing departments will try to add a Facility Fee to your bill, completely separate from the services that were provided. These fees are not always covered by health insurance and can be hundreds of dollars in some cases. The best way to avoid these fees is to research the health care facility beforehand, or simply ask their billing department directly what additional fees you can expect to find on the eventual bill.
5.) Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
When you finally get through to a real human being in the hospital billing department, don’t assume everyone is going to be these cranky, immovable rock-people. In many cases, simply asking for a discount is the best way to get one, and even if you don’t, you will likely find the person you are speaking with is going to do what they can to make it easier for you.
Negotiations don’t have to take place after the fact, either. The next time you schedule a treatment or procedure, take the time to chat with both your doctor and the billing department about what discounts, payment options, or relief plans might be available. Some providers even offer sizable discounts when you offer to pay upfront with cash.
And don’t forget that you have access to our Bill Negotiation Service, which will negotiate any medical bill on your behalf. They charge just a small percentage of any money they are able to save for you.
These five tips might be some of the easiest ways to keep your medical costs down, but the list is hardly exhaustive. Your Personal Benefits Manager is the key to a number of different plans and strategies that can transform the way you are saving money on health care. Call today to make an appointment.
To your health and wealth,
Wiley P. Long, III
President – HSA for America
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