With President Obama's medical bill recently confirmed by the Supreme Court, it seems like millions of additional Americans will receive affordable healthcare in the next few years. However, there are millions upon millions of people who don't have any heathcare right now, and they still need to see doctors every now and again. If you are one of those uninsured, you're probably putting off regular appointments due to fear of those massive bills. Luckily, there are ways to negotiate yourself a discount, if you take the time to find a workable compromise with your medical professionals. Here are a few ideas to help you along your way.
First off, don't be afraid to haggle. Since you're not going through an insurance company, the rules and restrictions that usually constrict a doctor's options do not apply. A doctor is running a business, just like any other, and he wants you as a customer. Repeat business is always cheaper than finding new clients, and most medical practices advertise. So start by finding the decision-maker in the medical office. That may be the doctors themselves, or the office manager, or even the accountant. Just be up front about your needs. Inform them right at the outset that you don't have insurance and will be paying for the care yourself. Tell them you need to discuss payment options, and they'll point you to the right person.
Once you're ready to negotiate, start by finding out if there's a discount for paying up front. Most doctors get paid in pieces, after a delay due to the insurance processing. If you're willing to pay in advance for all services, you could get a significant reduction in the full bill. If you can possibly pay in cash, that could lead to another discount. Insurance companies working with doctors regularly receive 30% to 40% off services, so you should be able to get at least a part of that discount.
If you're not in a position to pay up front, ask for a monthly payment plan. Not all medical facilities will be willing to negotiate, but you'll find more than half of the time that they're willing to work with you. They want to help you; doctors really work for the patients, not the insurance companies. So talk about a monthly payment. If they're not willing to play ball, don't be afraid to bring your business elsewhere.
When asking for a monthly payment plan, make sure you leave yourself a bit of wiggle room around the margins. For example, if you're looking at a $1,000 bill and thinking of asking for payments of $100 a month, start off by asking for $80 a month. That way if you run into financial troubles you'll have a better chance of still being able to make the payments.
Finally, if the situation requires it, get yourself some professional help. There are organizations that advocate on behalf of patients, generally in emergency or chronic care situations. They'll assess your medical condition, discuss it with the care provider and try to determine what sort of attention you will require. Then they'll negotiate with the medical center on your behalf to set a rate for the bills. You'll have to pay these people, and it will be either a flat up front fee or a percentage of the amount of money you save on the bills. But to have them talk to Dr Marcells when you're just not in any condition to, and the peace of mind that comes with it, are more than worth sharing the savings.