Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
If you’re looking to save money on medical bills, you might consider being a cash payer and shopping around for the lowest price on non-emergency medical procedures.
I take calls on my radio show all the time from people who have no insurance or just a bare-bones health insurance policy, and they’re always getting massive bills for medical services that have already been rendered. Unfortunately, you’re in a weakened position when it comes to asking for discounts after you’ve already had a procedure or test you need.
The key is to make a deal upfront when you have the time and opportunity to do so. I read an article in The Los Angeles Times that gave some concrete examples of how much money doing it like this can save you.
In one case, a blood test that would have cost an insured patient $415 could be paid for in cash — after negotiating — for $95. In another case, one major insurer was charging a negotiated rate of $2,400 for a CAT scan at a Los Angeles-area hospital. But that was reduced down to $250 when the reporter called to inquire about the cash price at the hospital.
Medicine doesn’t work like normal business with price lists posted and all the rest. It’s all in a fog; you have to clear out the fog if money matters to you. You don’t want to be in a situation with backbreaking bills or ruined credit after the fact.
Like in other areas of life, cash is king. The medical billing offices are already fatigued with all the insurance companies and would welcome a cash payer.
So if you do your homework and you shop services, providers and facilities, you can make a big impact on what kind of financial burden you’ll face down the road.
-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs
Find more answers to your consumer questions at ClarkHoward.com. Listen to his radio show live 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday on WSB 750 AM and 95.5 FM.