Why should the big health-insurance companies have all the fun? Ordinary patients can and should haggle over their medical care, according to John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. In an article last fall, Santa spelled out some of the basics.
If you’re healthy or having an elective surgery, you’re obviously in a better position because you have the opportunity to do research, shop around and compare prices using resources like www.healthcarebluebook.com, Santa says. Health care costs vary much more than most of us realize. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor if tests or medications are necessary and if there are cheaper options out there. If you have health insurance that will cover a portion of your expenses, ask if your doctor will accept the insurance carrier’s definition of “reasonable and customary” costs — since that figure might be very different from what your doctor’s billing department charges.
Patients facing an emergency are in a tougher spot; it’s certainly possible to go back after the fact and ask if the doctor will accept less — and you should — but you’ll obviously have less clout. To bolster your case, research what other providers charge for the procedure performed.
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