Medical Bills and Arbitrary Costs: Add These Strategies to Your Toolkit

Media, consumer advocates and others talk a lot about how many of us are facing absurdly high costs for medical treatments. We know that these charges range significantly from location to location and that many times you may be hit with the majority of the balance. Not everyone, though, is talking about actual, practical ways to protect yourself from excessive costs when you obtain care at a local doctor’s office, hospital or other facility.

Asking the Right Questions

Almost all of the practical strategies for “consumer cost control” in medical offices focus on getting answers from medical providers. Asking relevant questions before, during and after a visit can help you avoid some of the most ridiculous charges that show up on medical bills.

One tip is to ask for an itemized list of charges. Itemization of a medical bill will show you whether any costs for a particular procedure have been padded or exaggerated, for example, in bills for supplies and related expenses. Some doctors have begun to bill different aspects of consultation separately and this is another area where an itemized bill can come in handy.

Look At the Medical Codes

Medical consultants are now advising to look at the CPT codes that show up on your medical bills. CPT codes represent specific procedures and treatments, and you can use these to help find a fair price online. It is becoming increasingly common for individuals to look for these kinds of “blue book values” for medical procedures when negotiating with a provider. Experts also recommend checking out the government’s reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid to see if your doctor is charging you too much for a specific procedure.

Look for Alternatives

Another way to lower overall medical costs is to decline some of the more expensive and less necessary treatments that your doctor may suggest. Lots of medical advocates tell patients to always apply the “BRAIN” ( benefits, risks, alternatives, intuition, nothing) principle to their questions in the doctor’s office. This involves looking at the pros and cons of procedures, as well as what lower-priced alternatives may be available, as well as checking your intuition or “gut feeling” about a suggested treatment. Then, evaluate the consequence of delaying treatment for a health condition.

One reason that consumer advocates suggest this kind of questioning is that a doctor’s suggested treatments are not always the only course of action for any given health condition, and sometimes, a practical approach can reveal perfectly good alternatives that can come with a much lower price tag.

Look for Discounts and Other Payment Options

Another great tip is to look for payment plans and other options from your local medical providers. Many providers have begun to offer these options to patients. Some patients who are facing high-dollar bills can even qualify for charity, especially if their insurer declined huge portions of their bill. Make sure that you keep all of these strategies handy for dealing with medical bills that threaten to ruin your financial health.