Paying for Medical Bills – Ask the M-Network

By glblguy

ask-the-m-networkThis article is part of the Ask the M-Network series.  Bobbi submitted a question and asked:

I have a medical bill that I want to negotiate down and just pay a lump sum. I do not think they did the testing they billed me for and the billing clerk said they did it because they have a report on it. :( How would you suggest I go about negotiating a one time payment and what do you think should be fair? The bill is $1580. I have no insurance. I do not have insurance and I was quoted $725 for the test, before I made the appointment. That is another reason I do not want to pay the $1580. The girl I talked to on the phone was totally not interested in what I had to say and I am not real good at confrontation.

Pinyo from Moolanomy says:

This is a tough one especially if you didn’t get the quote in writing. I had a similar situation as yours where I was quoted one price and charged another. I didn’t have it in writing either and it was not fun. Before talking about the payment, I would try to reason with them regarding the fair price — i.e., what you were quoted and what they charged — at least, see if they’ll meet you half way. One thing you can try to do is call other doctors in your area to see what they would charge for a similar test so that you can get a clear idea if this doctor is trying to rip you off or not. Unfortunately, I am really not sure what you can do against doctors that overcharge their patients.

As for payment, I think you basically have three choices:

1. Lump Sum – Leverage the fact that you’re willing to pay a lump sum and see if the doctor will take it.

2. Payment Plan – Another option is work with the doctor on a monthly payment plan that work for both of you. If they won’t budge, perhaps you could borrow — i.e., from a bank or a social lending network.

3. Don’t pay – I have never done this, because I think everyone should pay for what they used. But I have a friend who can’t afford to pay all of his medical bills. He simply didn’t pay and waited for the bills to go into collection where he settles with the collection company. He usually pays less than half of the face value of the bills. However, your credit score will take a hit if you do this.

Patrick from Cash Money Life

f you think they are charging you for a test you did not request or that was not required, you should call the doctor’s office that ran the tests and verify you are in fact being charged for tests that took place. You may even want to request a copy of the test that was done so you have proof the test occurred. If the test was not necessary, you may try the argument that you shouldn’t have to pay for it on the grounds that it was not needed and you didn’t request it. I don’t know how much luck you will have with that route.

Other than that, your best bet is to try Pinyo’s suggestions – negotiating a reduced lump sum payment, negotiating lower monthly payments, or borrowing money from your bank or a peer to peer lending service such as Lending Club.

David from My Two Dollars says:

They will agree to a payment plan – I did this a few times last year when I had over $10K in medical bills owed to various hospitals and doctors. Usually the limit is 6 months, but that would make paying that bill much easier. Verify that the tests were done and necessary, but please pay what you owe. A big reason insurance is so much for everyone else is because of people not paying their medical bills. I am with Pinyo – everyone should pay for what they have received. It took me a while, but I was finally able to pay off my own medical bills. Good luck.

I say

I agree with David, they will agree to a payment plan. They will also agree to a reduced cost. I would just call them and say “here is what I can pay: $725”. I would just be honest and tell them you can’t afford anything beyond that, and that if they don’t agree, you won’t have any choice but to let the bill go into collection. I would stress to them that you want to be fair, but that you can’t pull money out of thin air. Normally I would recommend you pay what you were charged, but since they quoted you one price and charged another, that is their fault not yours. Lesson learned though, always get quotes in writing. I have a rule of thumb in my life: “if it isn’t on paper, it doesn’t exist”.

Doctor’s offices run into these types of situations frequently, and as David said they will work it out with you. If you get someone on the phone that isn’t helpful, speak to their supervisor and just go up the chain until you get the answer you want.

As Pinyo said, you do need to pay the bill. For me personally, receiving a service and not paying is the same as stealing. It’s just not something I am comfortable with. Best wishes and let us know how it turns out!

Readers, what would you recommend? Have any of you been in a similar situation? How did you resolve the problem? Any tips or tricks you can share with Bobbi? Add a comment!

3 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Paying for Medical Bills – Ask the M-Network”

  1. Abigail Says:

    I agree with David and Patrick. You can work something out. And if you don’t buy that they really did the test, you have every right to request a copy of the test results/record that the test was completed.

    That said, I’m wondering, who is it you’re talking to about this? You said the girl had no interest in what you were telling her. First, ask if there’s someone else you can talk to. Preferably a supervisor.

    Explain that you have no insurance, you were quoted a significantly smaller amount (I don’t suppose you have the info on who quoted you this? That would help immensely) and you’re wondering what can be done.

    At the very least, they should offer to send you an application for financial aid. There’s no guarantee you’ll qualify, but if you don’t have insurance, that should be an option you get offered.

  2. Bobbi Says:

    Thank you for the advice…
    I have since talked to the Dr.’s office and they said the script was written for the test so they probably did it. I also received a copy of the test but I am still not sure they did what they are charging me for. :) However, I am planning on paying it. I do not want a mark on my credit and it IS the right thing to do. I do not have names and anything in writing so I will just have to chalk this up to experience. Lesson learned. :) Thanks for your help! :)

  3. emr Says:

    Medical companies are usually fairly lenient when it comes to paying medical bills back. Typically you can set up really flexible payment arrangements.