I've read for years that you can save money by asking medical providers to reduce the amount you owe, but the few times I asked, it never worked. Apparently, that's because I've always had health insurance, and a good plan at that.
But at the end of last year, one of the boys injured himself on a Friday evening, and after a quick trip to the pediatrician's office, we found ourselves at the Emergency Room on Saturday. The bills from that experience have been coming in, and I've learned a few things:
Lesson #1: The hospital and doctors bill separately.
Lesson #2: They won't necessarily tell you upfront if they are members of your insurance network.
Lesson #3: The hospital and doctor don't really work together. What I mean is that in our case, the hospital was in-network but the doctor wasn't.
Whenever I pay a medical bill, I double check it against the Explanation of Benefits we receive from the insurance company to make sure the amount is correct. When I went to pay the doctor's bill, I realized that the doctor wasn't a member provider. No wonder the billed amount was in the $700 range!
The insurance company had already paid nearly $600. And apparently with an in-network provider, we would have owed approximately $150. But because the doctor wasn't in-network, we were being held liable for the additional $600 billed.
So I got on the phone with the doctor's billing agency to complain that I hadn't been told the doctor wasn't in-network and that if I had known, I would have asked for a different doctor. The customer service representative (CSR) who answered the phone assured me that every doctor in the ER was a member of the same out-of-network group of doctors that my bill came from, and then she said something that caught me off-guard: "Let me see what I can do."
Though I was surprised when she said that, years of reading frugal tips had prepared me for this moment. I immediately offered to pay the $150 I would have been on the hook for with a member provider. Unfortunately, the CSR said that wouldn't be enough. Her counteroffer was a reduction down to $500+. That was a $200 savings but still a lot of money! So I asked if she could reduce it further if I paid in full immediately. She put me on hold, and eventually came back with an offer that was $100 lower. The total was still a decent chunk of change, but about half of the difference between the original billed amount and the in-network copay. So I paid it off right there and then, impressed with myself for saving $300 in 15 minutes with one phone call.
And I have to admit, I was pleased that my years of reading almost every money-saving tip I can get my hands on paid off!
What's the most lucrative phone call you've ever placed?
Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by phasinphoto.