Wondering how to lower your hospital bill? Hospital stays can be extremely scary. Especially if you don’t have experience with hospitals. Other than giving birth to my son, I was very fortunate to never have to stay in a hospital until this year, when I had a scary pregnancy complication. The whole drive to the hospital, I couldn’t help but wonder how much this trip to the hospital was going to cost. And yet, I knew I didn’t have a choice– I had to do what I needed to do to take care of the twin babies I’m pregnant with. Do you know what the last thing you want to be worried about when you (or especially your children) are on the verge of life and death? How you are going to pay your hospital bills. That should be the last of your worries. And yet there it was, at the forefront of my mind as I was checking in and being treated at the hospital.
I can’t help but imagine that I’m not alone in the way that I felt. If you’ve had a similar experience or you are wondering how on earth you are going to be able to pay your hospital bill, here is how to lower your hospital bill.
HOW TO LOWER YOUR HOSPITAL BILL
TELL EVERY PERSON WHO TREATS YOU THAT YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT COSTS.
A good starting place to lower your hospital bill is to tell every single person who treats you in the hospital that you are worried about how you are going to afford your bill. I found as often as I expressed my concern about the cost of my hospital stay, whoever was treating me always had good insight. For example, I had nurses who would offer me a prenatal vitamins every day, but always warn me that they would cost a few dollars per pill (so I had my husband bring me some from home).
Your nurses and assistants will also have good insight into strange things your hospital might charge you for, such as turning on the TV. So don’t forget that the people treating you are human beings who understand how expensive hospitals stays can be. They’ll help you if they can.
TALK TO SOMEONE FROM THE BILLING/FINANCING DEPARTMENT BEFORE YOU LEAVE TO LOWER YOUR HOSPITAL BILL.
Before you leave the hospital, ask to talk to someone in the billing department. You might have to go to them rather than coming to you, but often the billing department is located right at the hospital (sometimes it’s outsourced). I truly believe that having a face to face conversation with someone about your hospital bill is the way to go to lower a hospital bill. They will be able to better understand where you are coming from. You’ll likely be able to explain yourself better.
If you aren’t able to speak to anyone before you leave, you can (and should) call when you receive your bill.
PRE-NEGOTIATE YOUR BILL.
Another great way to lower your hospital bill is to pre-negotiate your bill before you even get there. Often, if you call the billing department in advance, you will be able to get a good discount on the services you’ll receive there. This is true because hospitals like to get paid, rather than sending people to collections and having to discharge tons of debt they’re owed. So call up the billing department beforehand and see what kind of deal they are willing to give you.
ASK FOR A SELF PAY DISCOUNT TO LOWER YOUR HOSPITAL BILL.
If you don’t have health insurance (we don’t, instead we use a health share ministry, you can read more about that here) then you should ask the billing department for a self pay discount. Some hospitals have policies in place that will automatically apply a self pay discount when you do not have health insurance. You should always ask for one. Hospitals have big incentive to offer you a discount when you are a self paying patient– they’d rather get paid something, than nothing. And since hospital stays are insanely expensive, uninsured patients often aren’t able to pay. So if you are able to pay something rather than nothing, they’ll likely be willing to work with you.
ASK FOR 30% DISCOUNT OR MORE
If your hospital doesn’t have a policy in place for self paying patients, you can start by asking for a 30% discount upfront. Insurance companies are routinely given discounts at hospitals, usually at around 30%. There’s no reason the hospital can’t give you the same discount– just ask for it! I will say at my last hospital stay, they were willing to discount me much more than 30%, so think of 30% as the bare minimum discount you should accept.
APPLY FOR FINANCIAL AID.
You can also apply for financial aid with your hospital. You’ll need to meet certain income requirements. If you do, some hospitals are willing to forgive a big portion of your bill. So definitely ask about any financial aid the hospital either offers or knows about that can help you.
ALWAYS REQUEST AN ITEMIZED BILL
One of the most important things you can do to lower your hospital bill is to request an itemized bill of the services you received. It’s not that all hospitals are nefarious, it’s just that medical coding can get complicated. So make sure you understand each of the services that the hospital is alleging you received, and then make sure you actually received those services.
On my most recent hospital bill, I found out that I was being charged for medication I never took, and for twice as many ultrasounds as I received. Rather than seeing my pregnancy as a twin pregnancy (so a twin ultrasound might be a little more expensive than a singleton ultrasound), they were charting it as if I’d had two ultrasounds, which simply wasn’t the case. I asked them to remove those charges, which they easily did!
GET ON A PAYMENT PLAN
This is not necessarily a way to lower your hospital bill, but you can certainly lower the blow of a big hospital bill by getting on a payment plan. Many hospitals will allow you to make interest free payments on the balance of your bill which is obviously quite helpful if you have a big balance. This was particularly good for me being with a health share ministry, After I lowered my hospital bill, I submitted my bills to my health share ministry. Then, I asked the hospital if I could get on a payment plan. That way, I could make small payments on the balance of my bill while I waited for the health share ministry to reimburse me for the bill. This allowed for some overlap– I was receiving reimbursements from the health share ministry while making payments on my bill so I wasn’t put out the entire balance of my bill.
IF YOU AREN’T SUCCESSFUL LOWERING YOUR BILL, CALL AGAIN.
Sometimes lowering your hospital bill is all about who you talk to. If you are finding that you aren’t getting much help from the person you are negotiating with, thank them for their time and simply call back later so you can talk to someone else who may be more helpful in lowering your bill.
WHAT LOWERING YOUR HOSPITAL BILL CAN LOOK LIKE:
It’s hard to know whether you’ve done enough to lower your hospital bill. I think a good rule of thumb is that if you get things down at least 30%, you’ve done a good job.
For my most recent hospital stay, my bill started out at $14,000 and I ended up whittling it down to about $4,500, because my hospital was so great to work with and because I was able to recognize some errors on my itemized bill.
Navigating your hospital bills can feel overwhelming and scary at first, but as you tackle your bill head on by speaking with the hospital and negotiating a discount, it can actually be really empowering. With these tools, you’ll be able to lower your hospital bill in no time.
Have you had experience negotiating a hospital bill? What worked for you? What didn’t? Drop a comment below!
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