Every time the calendar changes to a new year, many people start thinking of ways to improve their lives. While there’s no reason that you can only do a “New Year’s resolution” at the start of a new year, it’s common for people to start goals in January. You might have financial goals, goals to improve your education or employment or work on being healthier. If you do have a New Year’s health resolution, here are a few tips to negotiate your way to better health.
Everything is negotiable
The first thing to keep in mind is that just about everything in life is negotiable, to one degree or another. You can often negotiate your utilities and other recurring bills, and the same can be true with certain types of medical expenses. Rather than simply accepting the medical bills that are mailed to you, take a detailed look at them to make sure that you understand them and that they accurately reflect the services that were provided.
Negotiating your medical bills
Medical bills can often be negotiated, depending on the provider and the type of bill. It can never hurt to ask if there is any room for negotiating — the worst thing that can happen is that they say no. Unless you’re in a financial emergency, it’s probably not a good idea to refuse recommended services due to cost. That can be penny-wise but pound-foolish — but you do want to make sure you take an active role both during your visit and when reviewing your bill to make sure that you are only receiving and paying for the services that make sense for you.
Another tactic that you can use to negotiate your way to better health is to ask for a cash discount when paying your medical bills. Many businesses including hospitals and other medical providers will discount services if you pay with cash. Depending on the business, this could mean paying with cash instead of a credit card. It could also mean paying directly without billing insurance. Many medical professionals have very high “cash” prices that they bill to insurance, knowing that insurance will discount the amount they pay out. If you ask, many times you can negotiate to pay the actual insurance price, even without insurance.
Comparison shop before having a major procedure
It’s common to comparison shop before buying the latest electronics gizmo, but it might seem odd to comparison shop before having an MRI or elective surgery. But it can be a great way to save money on medical expenses. And while of course you don’t want to have a broken bone set in a back alley, many hospitals and reputable doctor’s offices charge vastly different prices for the exact same procedure. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have insurance or are paying out of pocket until you meet your deductible, it can pay to call around.
Because the pricing of procedures at many medical offices is so far removed from the actual point of service, it can sometimes be difficult to even find out what the price will be. And there are some providers that will refuse to share prices. Still, if you’re willing to put in a bit of work, you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Saving money with generic prescriptions
Pricing of prescriptions is another way that you can negotiate to save money. If your doctor agrees, you can ask your doctor to prescribe generic instead of brand name to help you save. While there are some medications where your doctor will prefer prescribing the name brand, and other cases where there may not be a generic for a specific kind of medication, in many cases, a generic prescription will work just as well for a fraction of the cost of the name brand medication. Using a prescription comparison tool like GoodRx.com can be another good idea. In many cases, you can get your medication through GoodRx cheaper than the copay with your insurance.
Consider using an HSA
Using a Health Savings Account (HSA) is another great way to save money on medical expenses. With an HSA, you can get a tax deduction for contributing money, your earnings grow tax-free, and you don’t have to pay taxes on withdrawals as long as they are used for qualified medical expenses. This gives HSAs a triple tax advantage that can also save you money as you negotiate your way towards better health.
The Bottom Line
The most important thing to remember is the life philosophy that just about everything is negotiable. Finding ways to negotiate your medical bills is just one way to save on your health this year. That doesn’t mean that you have to negotiate everything, since sometimes it ends up being more work than the value from any savings that you receive. But it does mean that you should be aware of the medical costs that you’re paying, and be diligent about working with your doctor and making sure that you understand the cost of the services that you receive (and pay for).
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids.