There may be economic recession, but healthcare inflation goes on unbridled, with annual inflationary rates in excess of 10%! Often, I’ve been asked how to reduce medical bills once they are incurred. Of course, the best method is prevention. The next? Getting a good healthcare insurance cover (click here to know more).
But what happens when you’ve already incurred the bills? Here’s some pointers:
1.Choose when to be hospitalised – emergencies aside, its better to be admitted during office-hours and during weekdays. Why? Because many hospitals cut off ‘non-essential services’ after office-hours. You’ll be hard-pressed to find dieticians , physiotherapists and some specialists on weekends. It may seem unfair, but hospitals do charge an ‘overtime fee’ or surcharge if services are provided after office-hours.
2. Review the bill – go through the charges. Are they accurate? Extra charges and miscoding can occur, intentional or otherwise. If there are disputes, hospitals have standard grievance procedures (more of this in a future blog article) where such disputes may be resolved.
3. Negotiate – everything is negotiable. Talk to the service provider to see if they will offer a discount for the various items charged on the bill, especially if you’re paying out of pocket. Some hospitals have provision for a discount – if you ask for it.
4. Ask for a payment plan – if you cannot pay in a lump sum, ask for instalments. Some hospitals will allow this, at no interest charge. Put it in writing and if you cannot keep to the schedule, re-negotiate.
5. Charity begins not at home – many not-for-profit hospitals have a subsidy program or a foundation which will pay or subsidise for deserving cases. You will be interviewed by a financial counsellor who willmassess whether you deserve one. Such programs are understandably poorly publicised, so do not be afraid to ask.
6. Seek out support groups – especially cancer support groups. They will be well-placed to advise on charities or foundations who might be able to access funds.
7. Government assistance programs – many pension or annuity schemes will allow withdrawal for payments of critical illnesses. Yes, it will dwindle your savings, but at least you will not be deprived of adequate medical care.
- Personal Health: Put Your Hospital Bills Under a Microscope (nytimes.com)
- Six Ways to Save Money on Your Health Care Costs (socyberty.com)
- Finding Errors in the Hospital Bill (well.blogs.nytimes.com)