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Medical bills can be so overwhelming. It seems like the minute you finish paying off last year’s bills, the new ones come in the mailbox a few weeks later. Medical bills can be costly for families especially if you have a child with special needs.
Now, let's get on to the money saving tips.
Here are 10 ways you can save money on medical bills today:
1. Discount for patients without insurance
I am not sure if they have programs like this at a doctor’s office, but your hospital may have a program where they give you a discount on the balance if you DO NOT have insurance.
Just call the 1-800 number on the bill or call the operator and ask to speak to someone in financial aid or the billing office. Some places might offer you a steep discount upwards of 50% if you don’t have insurance.
2. Financial Aid
Some hospitals offer financial aid. This is even for people with insurance. Each hospital has different rules, so you will definitely want to check with your hospital to see what rules they have.
For example, my daughter gets bills from three different hospitals. I applied for financial aid at all three hospitals.
Here are the results:
Hospital #1- gave us a 75% discount on co-insurance payments and deductibles
Hospital #2- gave us a 60% discount on deductibles only
Hospital #3- wouldn’t give us a discount because we owed less than $2,500
Some of the hospitals may have the guidelines listed on their website. If they don’t just call the hospital and ask for the financial assistance or billing office. The hospitals that we use, go by the federal poverty table and that is how they determine if you are eligible for financial aid.
**Note: Sometimes the process for applying for financial aid is lengthy and you have to provide supporting documentation of address, income, etc. DO NOT let this deter you from applying. It will really help save you a lot of money. If you are approved, you only have to reapply every year or so. So, this should be a once a year thing.
3. Donation Through an Organization
Our local Spina Bifida Association helps people with certain medical bills. You just have to fill out a claim with the organization to see if you qualify. You can check with your local organization and see if they have a program available for its members.
**Note: If you are a newly diagnosed parent, there are local and state-wide organizations for people with a common disability. My daughter has spina bifida and we are members of the local Spina Bifida Association. If your child has a rare condition, it may be harder for you to find an organization for your child’s exact diagnosis.
Here is a link to several helpful free resources for special needs families. There are several organizations listed that provide free financial aid to special needs families.
4. Check Statements
On occasion, you pay too much for your bill at the time of the appointment. Some offices will not call an tell you that you overpaid. They will just put it as a credit on your account. If you never go back in, you will basically lose your overpayment. You can call them and get them to issue you a refund for the overpayment.
To find out if they owe you money, read the statement from the insurance company referencing the doctor visit. The amount I owe the doctor’s office is on the front page of the statement. It says you owe Dr. Smith $50. Well if you paid Dr. Smith $100 at your appointment, then you are owed a refund of $50.
I also use this to match up with bills to make sure they reflect the same amount owed as on the insurance statement. If the doctor is saying you owe $50 and the insurance statement says you owe $50 (sometimes listed as patient’s responsibility), then you owe $50 as long as you didn’t pay the $50 in the office at the visit.
5. Refile with Insurance
Know your co-payments, co-insurance and deductible amounts. This can save you a ton of money. Sometimes the medical coder for the doctor can make a mistake. Just chalk it up as human error. One time my husband had surgery and I got a bill from the anesthesiologist for $800. I knew this was not right. Even though the medical statement from the insurance company said I owed $800 as well as the bill from the doctor’s office. I knew my deductible was $200. I called the billing company and the insurance company. Both of them admitted the charge should have been $200 and not $800.
They could not, however, agree on who needed to fix it. I went round and round with both businesses before I could figure out who caused the error and get them to fix it. I would have spent $600 too much if I hadn’t paid close attention.
Medical billing can be so confusing, so don’t hesitate to ask questions. You can call the billing office or the insurance office (or both) to clarify an amount owed or with policy questions.
6. Check with a State Agency
I live in the state of Alabama. We have an agency through the Department of Rehabilitation called Children’s Rehabilitation Services (CRS for short). CRS is free to join as long as your child has a qualifying condition. Here is the link for our CRS for reference. Check your local state to see if you have any related type of state agency.
7. Ask a Social Worker
Social workers can be found in any department at the hospital. One of the many things they do is help get you in touch with agencies that can help you with a lot of things, including some that may offer financial assistance with your medical bills. They may refer someone to a CRS state agency for example. If you don’t know how to get in touch with a social worker, just ask any of your doctor’s offices or hospital department.
8. Negotiate Your Medical Bills
Negotiating your medical bills can be a great way to save money on medical bills. If you have the money to pay the bill in full, you might be able to negotiate it. Figure out what you would pay with a 35% discount. (Hint: multiply amount owed by 0.65) If you can afford to pay that in one lump sum, give them a call.
Use the script:
Hi, I’m calling in reference to my bill #…… I was wondering if I could pay it in full for $XYZ and settle it to a $0 balance.
**This only works if you have the money for the lump sum payment. It may not work on smaller bills like $200 co-pay for an MRI. You can always call and check though. It never hurts to ask.
9. Get a Supplemental Insurance Policy
A supplemental health insurance policy is in addition to your primary health insurance policy. A supplemental policy (also called secondary insurance) helps drop the costs of your out of pocket and co-insurance for your primary health insurance plan. It can be purchased through some employers (if they offer it) or on the open market.
Ex: Your primary medical insurance has a $5,000 annual out of pocket maximum. You can add a supplemental policy and bring your annual out of pocket maximum down to $500. This may or may not work for you financially. You just have to do the math. $5,000 a year to have only the primary policy vs your annual out of pocket maximum and premium for the supplemental policy.
10. Get your Bills Organized
Getting your bills organized can help you save money. When you are organized, you are familiar with your money and less likely to pay additional interest, late fees, overpayments, and double payments. To get your medical bills organized, check out this post.
Just try to think outside of the box and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I will admit I ask a ton of questions, but that is how I learn. I have asked everyone questions from social workers, insurance nurses, nurses at the hospital, billing office people, and the insurance customer service department.
I have even asked parents of other special needs children. Sometimes you just have to do a little bit of the legwork yourself. Just start initiating conversations and see what you find.