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Negotiating down the price of your medical care

Medical bills can hit the best of us. Even Americans who are very responsible with their budgets are not bullet proof against medical problems, which can crop up when we least expect them. When faced with the choice of going into debt versus being unhealthy, the decision is a easy: no amount of debt is too much if it means you can live a healthy life.

If you are suffering from medical debt overload in the United States, you are certainly not alone. Currently, there are 64 million people who are struggling to pay their medical bills in the United States. Furthermore, it is the most common reason for people to file for bankruptcy in the United States.

However, it is important for people plagued by debt to realize that in many situations, medical procedure prices can be negotiated down before the services are rendered. It is not uncommon for a provider to accept 50 to 80 percent less than they normally bill. All it takes is a little bit of negotiation skills and research to perfect the "art of the deal" when it comes to talking with medical services providers. This upfront negotiation can help you have a dramatically lower bill (and debt) at the end of the day.

First, before you call your medical provider for a service, look up what the fair price of the medical services is. For example, you might want to check with your insurance company about what the fair price is for a given procedure. There are also some free internet resources, like the websites HealthcareBluebook and NewChoiceHealth, which will help you price the going rate for medical services. Armed with this knowledge you will be able to argue for a fairer price.

Second, you can always offer to pay in cash and upfront. This is an excellent way to get a reduced price. Many medical providers offer deep discounts to customers without insurance. These kinds of discounts are less common at hospitals and more prevalent at independent medical centers.

At the end of the day, it doesn't hurt to ask. It's always preferable not to go into debt in the first place than to get into debt and require the bankruptcy process to get yourself back on the right financial footing again.

Source: Dallas News, "Negotiate your medical bills down," Cameron Huddleston, accessed Feb. 12, 2016

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