6 Tips for Lower Medical Bills and Cheaper Drugs


What's Hot


2 Types of Black Marks Might Vanish From Your Credit File SoonBorrow

6 Ways the Obamacare Overhaul Might Impact Your WalletInsurance

7 Dumb and Costly Moves Homebuyers MakeBorrow

This Free Software Brings Old Laptops Back to LifeMore

Obamacare Replacement Plan Gets ‘F’ Rating from Consumer ReportsFamily

Beware These 12 Common Money MistakesCredit & Debt

21 Restaurants Offering Free Food Right NowSaving Money

17 Ways to Have More Fun for Less MoneySave

House Hunters: Beware of These 6 Mortgage MistakesBorrow

30 Household Uses for Baby OilSave

25 Ways to Spend Less on FoodMore

Nearly Half of Heart-Related Deaths Linked to These 10 Foods and IngredientsFamily

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outdoors in WinterFamily

10 Ways to Save When You’re Making Minimum WageSave

Boost Your Credit Score Fast With These 7 MovesCredit & Debt

7 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years EarlierBorrow

The Most Sinful City in the U.S. Is … (Hint: It’s Not Vegas)Family

The True Cost of Bad CreditCredit & Debt

10 Companies With the Best 401(k) PlansGrow

This Scam Now Tops ID Theft as the No. 2 Consumer ComplaintFamily

6 Stores With Awesome Reward ProgramsFamily

6 Ways to Save More at Lowe’s and The Home DepotSave

6 Healthful Treats for Your DogFamily

New Study Ranks the Best States in the U.S.Family

Thousands of Millionaires Moving to 1 Country — and Leaving AnotherGrow

Strapped for College Costs? How to Get the Most From FAFSABorrow

6 Overlooked Ways to Save at Chick-fil-AFamily

Ask Stacy: What’s the Fastest Way to Pay Off My Mortgage?Borrow

Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top DollarAround The House

8 Ways to Get a Good Price on a Shiny New AutoCars

Ask Stacy: How Do I Start Over?Credit & Debt

Secret Cell Plans: Savings Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Don’t Want You to Know AboutFamily

30 Awesome Things to Do in RetirementCollege

14 Super Smart Ways to Save on TravelSave

The Rich Prefer Modest Cars — Should You Join Them?Cars

You’ll Soon Pay More to Shop at CostcoSave

10 Ways to Save When Your Teen Starts DrivingFamily

My health insurance policy features a $5,000 deductible, and I'm not shy about letting my doctor know that I'll be paying my bills myself. But if the thought of discussing money with your doctor leaves you feeling ill, check out this story.

This post comes from partner site insure.com

You talk to your doctor about personal issues you wouldn’t discuss with your best friend but, if you’re like many patients, there’s one topic you might feel squeamish about: Money.

Particularly if you have a high deductible or no health insurance at all, the doctor’s bill weighs heavily, and it’s something you should talk about. Your doctor needs to know what you can afford, and you need to get the most cost-effective care.

Here’s how to broach the topic without being rude.

1. Be upfront

“Patients should never have any fear about being up-front about their financial situation,” says Dr. Joanne Berkowitz, an internal and emergency medicine physician with the Doctors Center Medical Group Inc., in Fair Oaks, Calif. “If a patient says, ‘I’ve got a large deductible,’ or ‘I’m uninsured and I’m concerned about costs and would like to be as economical as possible,’ no physician is going to be offended. I like to know that up-front.”

Dr. Eric Bricker, an internal medicine physician, agrees. Bricker is chief medical officer of Compass Professional Health Services in Dallas, Texas, which helps employers and individuals cut health care costs and find the best-value health care and benefit options. “A physician wants to do the right thing for the patient,” he says. But your doctor is busy with many patients and, unlike the billing staff, doesn’t keep track of how much you pay out-of-pocket, so it’s up to you to explain your situation.

2. Understand that some things are non-negotiable

You can’t negotiate a price break on your insurance co-pay, which is set by contract with your health insurance company.

“And to a certain extent, the doctor’s time is not negotiable,” Berkowitz says, adding that she refuses to cut a visit short to save money if a complex case requires more time.

“I’m not going to give limited care when limited care is not adequate,” she says.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts on doctors’ fees

As part of their contractual arrangement with doctors, health insurance companies don’t pay full doctors’ fees, so there is room to negotiate if you’re paying out-of-pocket.

Berkowitz advises that, after explaining your financial situation, you ask your doctor directly if you can get a price break.

If it’s a large medical group, you might need to talk with someone in billing. Bricker suggests this language: “I’m going to have to pay for a lot of this out of my own pocket, so I need to be concerned about expenses. Is there someone I can talk to about reducing my bill?”

Never be afraid to ask how much something will cost and whether there’s a less-costly alternative, Bricker adds.

4. Be polite

Being honest about your financial situation and requesting a discount is one thing, but use common sense and don’t be too pushy. Remember, physicians need to charge for their services to stay in business, so don’t expect a free ride. Saying something like “but my other doctor would have done it for free” probably would not go over well, Berkowitz says, although she was hard-pressed to think of any other examples that might cause offense.

5. Shop around for medical tests

Some of the biggest costs you’ll face are not under your doctor’s control.

“Where things get really expensive are tests and procedures outside your doctor’s office, such as CT scans, MRIs and spinal injections,” Bricker says. “These can be thousands of dollars.”

It pays to shop around because costs vary widely depending on the provider. Bricker recalls how in one city the cost of an MRI ranged from $500 to $2,500. Rather than skipping a test to save money, discuss your need to keep costs down, Bricker says. Sometimes your physician will know which lab is least expensive. If not, ask if the test can wait, and then call facilities to ask for prices before setting the appointment.

6. Talk about drug costs

Sometimes physicians get in the habit of writing prescriptions for certain medications and might not consider costs.

Word your request to save money carefully. Instead of asking, “Can I get this in a generic?” ask, “Is there a generic medication that treats this condition?” Bricker advises. Although there might not be a generic equivalent for the original drug, there may be a less costly alternative that also treats the condition.

Beware of the long-term costs of free drug samples. Yes, doctors have cupboards full of free drugs they can give patients. But these samples are usually for the newest and most expensive brand-name drugs for chronic conditions. Once the free samples run out, you’ll be stuck with paying an expensive tab.

“You’re never going to get a lifetime of free samples, and then you’re going to pay through the nose for these drugs,” Berkowitz says.

Bricker says one of his company’s members got free samples for a new blood pressure medication for three months. Then when the samples ran out, she faced a $160 bill at the pharmacy for a one-month supply. “We had to scramble to get a generic alternative because she wasn’t going to fill the prescription.”

Although talking about money with your doctor might feel awkward at first, broaching the issue is good medicine — and really, it won’t hurt at all.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!

💰🗣📰

Read Next: Lookin’ Good! How to Get a Killer Deal on Eyeglasses

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 1,978 more deals!