The cost of health care in the United States continues to rise. The consulting firm Milliman Inc. reports that many families expect to pay $20,000 in health care costs this year. That’s a pretty large chunk of household income. One of the largest portions of these costs is due to health insurance premiums.
And, of course, many families have decided to take on higher deductibles in an effort to reduce what they pay each month in premiums. This means that many families are facing more out of pocket expenses, on top of premiums that seem to go higher each year… even if the increase is due to “administrative” costs.
Consumers, though, are discovering that they can negotiate some of their health care bills, and save some money in the the process.
Asking for a Lower Price
In many cases, asking for a lower price works best if your insurance company isn’t paying for the service. If you are paying out of your pocket, ask if you can be billed the same price as the insurance company. You might actually save between 20% and 40% on some procedures.
Additionally, you can ask if there is a cash discount. Some health care service providers will give you a discount of anywhere between 5% and 20% if you pay upfront at the time of service.
Another thing to remember is that some large procedures at hospitals can be settled for less as well. Some hospitals, if you are having trouble paying, will allow you to cut 50% off the cost if you are willing to pay in full immediately. Other hospitals offer no-interest payment plans if you can’t pay the full amount. Ask for a discount for paying in cash, as well as the payment plan, if you are having an especially difficult time. Many people qualify for financial assistance when it comes to the hospital bill, and they can’t be charged more than those who have insurance.
Saving Up with the HSA
If you have a high deductible plan that results in a lower monthly premium, make contributions of the savings to a Health Savings Account. Your contributions are tax-deductible, and you can amass money to use to pay off bills. As long as you use the money on qualified health care costs, you don’t have to pay taxes on the money. It’s a great opportunity that includes a tax deduction and tax-free growth. If you have a $2,000 hospital stay, and you offer to pay $1,100 to settle your bill immediately, having that money saved up in the HSA can be quite helpful.
And, of course, the HSA is a helpful tool for making out of pocket payments when you have a high deductible. For those with a high deductible plan, using a HSA can be a great help, since it provides a tax-advantaged way to save up for health care costs.
In the end, you need to consider your options. When possible, shop around for health care services, and find out if you can get a discount. The worst that can happen is that you’re told no.
Tom Drake writes for Personal Dividends, where they look to make life pay dividends with wealth tips and ideas covering personal finance, business money, investment, entrepreneurship and lifestyle.