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Area Agency on Aging

Posted on: March 5, 2013

Haggle with your doctor?

According to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) everything in healthcare is negotiable, including bills from the doctor, pharmacist or hospital. FTCR says “you are paying bills not only as a consumer but also as a taxpayer who helps fund the medical system.” Some physicians already give seniors a break where they can but many do not. Harris Interactive Health Care News says 13% of recently polled consumers have asked their doctor to reduce the price and about half were successful at accomplishing this. Research suggests that outspoken individuals have better health care outcomes. This could be for a number of reasons including the idea that such individuals experience less damaging stress due to having vented, or possibly their vocalizing their dissent actually has an impact on the doctor’s care of them. There is some wisdom in not creating bad feelings between you and your surgeon prior to an operation. There are not tried and true rules to successfully negotiate a fair price but here are some suggestions:

1) Educate yourself and find out what others are paying. Insurers seldom pay more than 50-67% of the amount billed.American Medical Association Web Site lists how much Medicare reimburses for certain procedures and service. Registration may be free but number of searches per year may be limited.

2) Cash and credit cards talk. Offering to pay in cash or by credit card could buy you a discount. Try it!

3) Plead your own case. Written requests and phone requests seldom get timely action. Arrange a face-to-face meeting with your doctor or discuss your price concerns with the doctor after your regular appointment.

Sadly, seniors in poor health (those needing to use the health care system) are less likely to have the energy or disposition to challenge the doctor and his/her billing. Family or a close advocate should help with this when necessary. There is relatively little risk in attempting to bargain and at least 6-7% will be successful.

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