Let’s dive into our SAVE MORE topic for today: How to negotiate a better deal when you need to go to the hospital.
If it’s an emergency, you get a free pass. But if you know in advance that you are going to the hospital, you should ask for an itemized estimate of the charges. I know this sounds crazy. And yet, when I re-tiled my bathroom, I insisted on a written estimate. When I got the tie rod ends in my car replaced, I demanded one (not that I understood it). We need to do the same thing before we head to the hospital for elective procedures. We should act like consumers —not patients. No more blindly following “doctor’s orders.”
You can even find out if your doctor has privileges at multiple hospitals and could perform this procedure at any of them. If so, you can shop around and see which facility has the lowest charges for all the support your doctor needs when treating you. I’m talking about the operating theater, the recovery room, the nurses, and so on. A pointer: Often community hospitals are less expensive than university teaching hospitals. Just make sure the cheaper hospital still has a good reputation.
Once you’ve identified the least expensive hospital, ask the people there if they are willing to offer you a flat fee or a percentage discount for the procedure you need. Flat fees are usually the best deal of all because then your rate is locked in. A flat fee may even include anesthesia, if needed. If you need to bring the price down even more, offer to pay cash in advance if you can afford it. Hospitals spend a lot of time and money tracking people down to get them to pay. Trust me. Paying cash up front will be attractive to the hospital execs. A Harris Interactive poll showed that 70 percent of people who ask a hospital for a break, do get a discount. So, go for it!
And get this: Sometimes it’s even cheaper to pay cash for a procedure than to cover your part after insurance. One patient who needed a Knee Xray at a hospital, found out it would cost $600 if she paid with insurance, and SHE was going to have to pay that full amount because she hadn’t met her deductible yet. So she offered to pay cash on the spot. The hospital was willing to take $70 bucks there and then for the same x-ray. Now THAT’s a deal! AND the power of negotiating with hospitals.