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How To Negotiate A Doctor's Bill

Introduction

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When you have to pay all or part of a doctor's bill, you can negotiate the amount. Doctors negotiate fees with insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid all the time.

According to a Harris Interactive poll, more than sixty percent of people who negotiate their medical bills get a discount. Hospitals and doctors are willing to negotiate because their retail rates bear little relation to the cost of providing care -- typical markups range from 200 to 600 percent.

You can negotiate the amount you are required to pay, interest rate on any outstanding balance, and/or the period of time you will have to pay the bill. Don't be surprised if the doctor suggests you speak with someone else in his or her practice. For example, you may be referred to the office manager in a small office or to the billing department of a larger practice. You can always return to the doctor if you don't get the answer you want from a staff person. After all, it is the doctor that orders services.

There is no right or wrong time to bring up price. However, it is better to bring it up early in a visit with the doctor instead of at the end of the visit so there is time to talk about the subject.

There are four steps to negotiating a bill with a doctor which are described in the next section of this document. Another section deals with the steps to take if you are subjected to an obnoxious collection agency about a doctor's bill.

If negotiating is not one of your strengths, ask a friend to do it for you. In addition to your lawyer and/or financial planner, there are also companies that specialize in negotiating medical bills in return for a payment of percentage of the savings. See the document in "To Learn More."

NOTE:

  • If you need to see the doctor again, and cannot afford to pay for ongoing services, ask if he or she provides service through a free clinic. If so, you can see the doctor through the clinic.
  • If you have a hospital bill to negotiate, see: How To Negotiate A Hospital Bill

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