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Reader Tip: Another Way to Save on Medical Bills

Rhonda emailed in the following tip:

I read your post about  and I have one more tip to add to that list… I recently had an outpatient procedure and my husband had a scope on his stomach. Our insurance only pays 80% after our $1000 per person deductable. So, since my bill alone was nearly $1000, I immediately called the hospital to set up a payment plan.

The person I talked to informed me I could get a 35% discount if I paid cash all at once; and since we just received our tax refund, I immediately paid the bill in full! I ed the other providers, and out of the 7 bills we had, 5 gave us a discount ranging from 10% to 35%. We saved $516.32!

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61 Comments

  • says:

    Wow! That is great! I know we have some medical bills coming up, so this is great tip! Thanks!

  • Heather says:

    Yes Yes Yes on the paying cash up front for a discount! 🙂 I recently had to take my oldest son for an extensive Neuropsychological diagnostic evaluation. It was not covered at all by our insurance. They worked with me and offered a 30% discount if I payed in cash. The testing was very expensive (thank goodness for safety fund – even if we now have to try and figure out how to replace what we took) – The overall price would have been $6,700. We saved $2,010 dollars by paying cash up front!

    • Heather says:

      This was not a discount on something paid in part by insurance. Our insurance paid NONE of it. (sure wish they would help to pay some of it as our services are not done with the Neurologist and our out-of-pocket expenses continue to grow)

      • Carrie Leljedal says:

        Heather,

        I would appeal your insurance because a Neuro Pshy evaluation is as much medical and physiological. My son has had quite a few and the insurance has always covered them. Also I would check with the state since you are having such large uncovered medical expenses you might be able to get assistance even if your income is fairly high.

  • Candice says:

    While this is great advice, you have to be very careful when doing this. Our hospital and doctors will not do it, because the total amount has already been applied to your insurance (whether that is part of your deductible or OOP).

    I am currently pregnant, so we have had this very conversation with every provider who lays hands on me (and we all know how many that is). 🙂

    Per our investigation, the hopitals, providers, and individuals are setting themselves for possible investigation for insurance fraud, since what you are paying does not match what your EOB from the insurance company states and has applied toward your policy.

    Just thought that I would share our research from our neck of the woods.
    Candice

    • Slides 'n Sandboxes says:

      Thank you so much for sharing! I would never have thought about it considering this angle… Wow. We have some big bills coming up as well and now I have to rethink what we are going to be doing.

    • Jessica says:

      I work for a hospital in Texas. We provide sports medicine coverage (doctors included) to local schools. In the event an athlete is hurt who doesn’t have insurance, the hospital has worked out a “discount” system with the insurance. An ACL replacement procedure costs X amount of dollars and that can’t be changed. However, due to discounts through partnerships and relationships with insurance companies we are able to provide a discounted service.

      The reason I share this is because for our athletes and the insurance groups we work with, its a relationship with them that allows us to do it. Have you thought about ing your insurance company and asking where they stand on the issue? In some cases they won’t care because they are receiving a discount as well.

  • Sam says:

    My cousin works for the billing department of a major hospital and says that people of all income levels should look into applying for financial assistance on their medical bills. All you need to do is call the hospital or drs office billing department and ask if they have a financial assistance program – you’ll need to supply your income information and they will forgive up to 100% of the bill.

    We did this when my last son was born – the bill was $2,000 and after financial assistance, our cost was only $400!

    • mommyof2 says:

      We filled out the financial assistance forms with both of our kids…my with my first the bill was $1800 and we only ended up paying $350 and with my second the bill was $1300 and we ended up paying nothing-they covered 100% of if!!! I didn’t think we would even qualify either time! I thought even if they knock off a hundred dollars it would be worth it, but they did way more than that!! We saved SOOOO much $$!!

    • Amy says:

      Sam,

      We did the same thing when my daughter was in the hospital with pneumonia. It only took a little extra time to apply and our bills were 100% covered! Huge blessing!

    • says:

      Should you do this even if you have insurance, or just for those who don’t?

      • Sam says:

        We have insurance – they’ll do it for everyone. It’s just based off of income levels. It’s a great program that most hospitals and drs offices have available. The problem is most people don’t know about it!

      • Jennifer says:

        Yes! Still apply. Some people who have insurance are what hospitals consider “underinsured” and they will apply a discount. We have insurance, but it is a high deductible HSA ($10,400 per year). We are considered underinsured.

        • Mary Sunshine says:

          Thank you for sharing this! We also have a high deductible HSA and my husband has a number of health conditions that require multiple specialist visits and tests each year. We usually ask if they can give us a discount if we pay the big bills in full, but I never thought to ask about financial assistance programs.

  • Andi says:

    Our naturopath gives us a discount of $25 per visit for paying cash.

  • Monica says:

    I go to a hospital that discounts all larger bills by 30% if the bill is paid in full in cash within 30 days.

  • says:

    My father-in-law recently passed away and did not have any medical insurance. When I went to the hospital to talk about his bills they gave us a HUGE discount. The original bill was $1500ish and we settled for $288 paying cash.

  • Ac says:

    I love tips like this because I would not have thought of that!

  • Sarah says:

    Rhonda,

    Did the original bill clear insurance prior to your payment? I ask because I’ve noticed that nearly always there is a sizeable write-off prior to billing. Is this what you’re saving or was it an additional savings?

    Thanks for the tip!
    Sarah

  • naomi says:

    I have tried this numerous times and been told NO every time. Am I doing something wrong.
    I usually ask about payment plans then ask if there is a discount to pay it all off at once. NO NO NO NO!

    • Jessica says:

      Don’t get discouraged. Think of it like double coupons… some stores will and some stores won’t. You might ask about paying cash up front then a payment plan. Good Luck!

    • Amy says:

      My friends recently had a baby and had no maternity insurance coverage, the hospital bill was $4000. They asked if there would be a discount if they paid the full amount in cash up front. The first person they talked to said no, but they asked to speak to someone else. The second person also said no. Finally my friends asked them to go and ask the head supervisor of the billing department, the head supervisor was shocked/surprised they were going to pay cash and said he would take $2200. The lesson they learned, and me too, sometimes you need to go to the people in charge, lower level workers may just go for the easy route by saying no.

      • Lan says:

        I worked in a hospital verifying insurance benefits for surgical patients. Larger discounts $2200 vs $4000 would always be determined by a supervisor.

    • Ashley says:

      As a member of Samaritan Ministries (AWESOME health sharing ministry for Christians), we are considered self-pay, so it is important to receive a discount because full price is so inflated.

      Only certain individuals have the authority to offer discounts. Ask, “If I pay 80 % of this bill with cash today (or very soon), would you accept that as payment in full?”

      If they say no, ask what percentage they would be willing to discount the bill.

      If still no, politely ask to speak to a supervisor, and repeat until you reach someone who can help you. It is amazing how easy it can be, but remain pleasant and polite. Very occasionally, you just can’t get a discount, but at least you have been a good steward of your medical care by seeking one! Blessings Naomi!

      • Julie says:

        We are also members of Samaritan Ministries, and I cannot speak highly enough about them.

        That being said, my daughter got seriously ill this past year and spent three separately times in the hospital with tremendous expenses. EVERY time, each department of the hospital reduced our bill by 40% just by asking, as we were considered no insurance, self-pay. Samaritan reimbursed the additional 60%. Not only were our expenses met, but people across the United States were (and still are) praying for us on a daily basis!

      • Naomi says:

        When you say cash do you mean physical money?

        When you are on the phone with someone you can’t pay cash, only card. Do you present in person to give them the green stuff?- some of the payment offices are located in another state!

        Is paying up front with a debit card the same?

        • Sara says:

          I have actually wondered this same thing. When you ask for a cash discount does that just mean you are paying in full right then, even with a credit or debit card? Or does it mean actually paying with cash?

        • Ashley says:

          Very good question. By paying with cash, I mean using the green stuff, a check, a debit card or even a credit card. Basically, paying your account off. We usually use out debit card over the phone when we pay off our bills.

    • Brooke says:

      We are right there with you Naomi. I called numerous people and I was basically read a script from everyone….. “WE DON’T NEGOTIATE” A horrible horrible experience.

  • Jess says:

    We were able to get a 10% discount for paying cash up front for my daughters vision therapy but ONLY because it wasn’t a covered service by our insurance. We’ve heard the same as others about the costs matching up with our EOB on our insurance. It never hurts to ask though.

  • says:

    Thanks for the tip! I also appeal my medical bills regularly, and almost always get a discount.

    Car Repair costs can also almost always be reduced by paying cash up front. Sometimes by 10-15% or more!

  • Cyndi says:

    I’ve never gotten a discount on anything that was paid in part by insurance. It’s actually a violation of the agreement between the insurance co. and the provider since the ins has already computed the deductibles, co-pays and provider discounted rate.

    Not sure how you managed that but good for you.

    • naomi says:

      I don’t think that it is a violation.

      • Lan says:

        If you don’t have insurance (or possibly if your insurance doesn’t cover a procedure you are having) ask if the hospital/doctor/etc. will give you the same price as the lowest they would get from one of the insurance companies they accept. Some insurance companies only pay 9-18% of billed charges or have a flat price per procedure.

    • Ashley says:

      Before we switched to a health sharing ministry and are now self pay, we received discounts all the time on bills that were partly paid by insurance.

      This is the first time that I have heard this, and we dealt with many different reputable providers. I don’t know for sure, but I am wondering if this “agreement” is only in certain situations because I have never heard this. You would think the providers would love to stand on the “agreement” to avoid discounting.

      I say this to share my experience, so someone is not deterred from asking for a discount, when there is nothing violated by doing so.

  • says:

    I have very little experience paying medical bill (praise the Lord for that!) but have found this to be true on the few occasions that I have had them.

    Most significantly our sons circumcision last year went from $500 to $150 when we paid up front with cash! (Not that I recommend circumcision after actually seeing it done :P)

    • Joanna says:

      Haha! That is why mom’s aren’t supposed to watch…very heartbreaking from what I’ve heard and I’ve getting ready to experience my first with my newborn son who will be born in a few weeks.
      However, I’m not trying to start a debate on circumcision, but I personally know a man who was circumcised at the age of 20 (his parents chose not to do circumcision), due to infection and he said it was one of the worst experiences in his life. A baby will never remember it done to him, so it is best to do it then.

      • says:

        Sorry guys… I forget what a hot topic that can be. I’m not necessarily arguing against it. Although I probably wouldn’t do it again if it was up to my. DH thinks it’s for the best though, so I’m sure we’ll do it again if we have another son.

        Joanna, I know that mom’s aren’t supposed to watch, I just *couldn’t* leave the poor little guy! 🙁

        Congrats to you on your little one! I pray that all goes well with the birth. 🙂

  • steph says:

    Most insurance companies, if you see an in network provider, will discount charges by at least 10%, sometimes all the way up to 50% depending on the procedure. So I think paying cash would only be worth it if you’re having a non covered procedure or seeing an out of network provider.

  • E. Baer says:

    Just be careful when doing that. We did that for the birth of our 3rd son, of course wanting to save the extra percentage. Well, it turns out they estimated the bill, what insurance would cover, etc. and were hundreds of dollars off. It was a lot of work, calls and staying on top of it, headaches, etc before they finally sent us a check to pay back the difference. And, of course, we didn’t save the percentage off the REAL amount, so not sure if we actually saved anything in the end. It was a headache and not worth the hassle to ever do again. Oh, and, they never pointed out the error, we just happened to catch it and call to inquire.

  • nicole says:

    I recieved a discount on my new a/c & furnace unit by paying cash

  • Emily says:

    I had twins in September. We paid nearly $7,000 out of pocket for their delivery (no NICU). I saved around $500 paying my bills in full. The discounts ranged from 10-15% depending upon the balance. And, that was paying over the phone with a credit card. This was my portion AFTER my insurance was billed and they received their payments. They just want all their money I guess! I do not believe this way there is any fraud. Pre-payments, I’m not sure about.

    • Emily says:

      I should also note that the hospital that I delivered at that provides the discount is the same as my health insurance provider, so they are all the same company. That might make a difference.

    • says:

      We did this too – with twins, no NICU and no C-section. And yes, our bill was about that big too after insurance.

      For the people who have had trouble getting a “yes” – are you asking for a discount on the portion you are liable for or for the whole thing?
      We always wait for the “final” bill – the part we’re liable for and then ask. They usually automatically give us a discount (depending on the size of the bill, of course), if we pay in full so we always ask.

      Great tip!
      Lea

  • Margaret says:

    I have been fighting cancer for over 12 years and medical bills are just a part of our life, but we have applied over and over and our hosp. will always offer finacial assistance after our insurance is done paying.. I have no idea how much the bills have run up to but I do know that only if you ask will they help …so always ask the worst that can happen is someone says no…

  • Jessica says:

    Some doctor’s offices, especially small independent ones will provide a discount for paying cash that is simply the cost they save by not having to pay the fee’s associated with your credit card.

    Last summer I had my wisdom teeth out and my sister did also. Same complexity, same insurance (and policy, we are both covered by our parents), same everything but mine ended up costing $75 less. We I was handed my refund I asked about it and she said it was because I paid cash. I was happy because I hadn’t even asked for a discount. I blame it on the medication. :).

    • naomi says:

      Did you actually pay with the green stuff or with a credit card/HSA card in full?

      • Jessica says:

        I paid with true green cash when I walked in and registered. They gave my refund to my mother who was accompanying me since I was sedated for the procedure.

  • rachael says:

    I recently had to have a medical procedure and had no insurance. I filled out the applicatin for financial assistance but we didn’t qualify for any discount. When I called to set up a payment plan I was told that they lowered the bill from $2500 to just under $2000 becuase I applied for the financial assistance (even though we didn’t qualify)…that coupled with the fact that I disputed a bunch of other charges based on a misdiagnosis saved us a lot of money. It wasn’t easy and the phone calls and documentation were time consuming but we ended up paying $1950 instead of over $5000 origionally being billed.

  • Chris says:

    We just paid cash up front for my son’s braces and they cut 10% off. (the bill, not his braces) That was a savings of $540. We always ask with all kinds of things…home repairs, furniture, car repairs, etc. Most of the time it works, and the few times it doesn’t we use our Discover Card and pay it off immediately. That way we still get a small discount from the cash back reward.

  • says:

    I had to get blood work and my 6 year old swallowed a quarter and had to go to the emergancy room. Both times they told me what the cost would be and told me how much my insurance would pay and offered me 20% off if I paid my share of the balance in full within 30 days. Our insurance company is fine with it and the hospital sent me a check the following month. They apparently had over estimated my chare. 🙂

  • says:

    Yes, definitely call about medical bills and see if they’ll give you a discount for paying cash in full.We don’t have insurance, but have saved over 50% before paying cash for small procedures. Also for somethings like childbirth where you know ahead of time we have gotten discounts by prepaying with cash by a certain date.

    For childbirth, when we were in the states, we also chose to deliver at a birth center with Certified Nurse Midwives and that definitely saved us at least half or more of traditional childbirth expenses. But I’m sure that could be a whole post of it’s own, because there are so many things to consider for childbirth and not all are available in all states.

  • says:

    I think a bigger question is why does medical care cost so much? 30,000 for a “normal section” and then I had minor foot surgery outpatient 30,0000. Really??? My daughters last prescription was 300 with no insurance and 25 with insurance. Huh???

    • Joanna says:

      My mother has worked in the Billings dept. for years for hospice, she has stated that most hospitals, doctors, healthcare facilities, etc. all overcharge since they know that the insurance company will pay under whatever amount they submit. In other words it’s haggling, at it’s finest. That procedure never cost $10,000 when all hospital’s will give an automatic uninsured discount of 50%….really that’s a discount? No because it never cost that much in the first place. Your best bet is to stear clear of processed food and realize that your health is your biggest discount.

  • Megan says:

    Ugh, insurance and medical providers! When we got our $750 bill (after insurance) for the delivery of our third child, I spent three hours on the phone trying to figure out exactly what we were paying for. Turns out they couldn’t figure it out either, so they sent us a new bill for $400. Crazy.

  • Becca says:

    When we had our baby last September, no insurance & going to one income, we qualified for the financial assistance. They wrote of 80% & gave us two years to pay off the balance, no interest. We went from $8000+ to barely a grand. Also, I had to have a tooth pulled & since I paid in full they dropped it $25. That happened with my ultrasound too & we were able to have no interest on those too (through CareCredit). Can take a lot of patience but definitly worth it.

  • Heather says:

    We also had an issue with medication that was prescribed to my son. There are no generic versions available so our out-of-pocket monthly expenses were to be $280. I called the drug company and they enrolled me in a discount program. My next month was FREE and now for the next 12 months, I will only have to pay $25.

    So if you are stuck in a situation like this – my advice is that it never hurts to call and ask about a discount program or help.

  • Stephanie says:

    My husband got hurt and needed 4 stitches right after our insurance ran out when he was laid off. We had no choice but to get him stitched up and the bill terrified me. The hospital staff said they would work with us and they did. We ended up paying only about $130 out of a $500 bill. What I didn’t count on was the physician bill for the actual stitching of 4 stitches – $792!!!! That was about $300 more than the whole hospital bill. . When I called them to work out a payment plan and said I might be able to pay in cash if there was a discount, they told me they do not offer discounts. The hospital staff I talked to had no idea that the company that bills for the physicians had a totally different policy when it came to unisured and cash payment. I got harassing calls daily until our tax refund came in and we were able to pay it. Please be careful and don’t always assume that cash will get you a discount. Not all places work the same.

  • Carrie Leljedal says:

    Always make sure you insurgence is billed even if you know it is a non covered service because then you will only be billed the rate agreed upon with the insurance. My husband has been going for some services for the past six months that we knew would not be covered but at least we have only paid the lower rate because it went through our insurance first and was shown as a non covered charge.

  • Betsy says:

    I work in insurance and totally agree that it’s worth asking the provider for a discount if you pay in full. I have seen it happen and it’s totally worth asking!

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