Yes, you can negotiate medical bills down. Before you make the call to negotiate, you must be prepared. You must determine your financial position in order to determine how decent of a payment plan you can leverage. You should be able to clearly articulate this financial position and support your annual income calculation if it is questioned. Also, ask yourself: have you audited the bill? Did you confirm insurance paid all that was due?
Once you are ready to make the call, I want to you practice a sample call. Consider role-playing with others. What is your offer? Can you commit to a payment plan? How will you respond to “no”? Will you keep your cool?
As a final preparation measure, I want you to remember to always request the agreement in writing. You will take control of the billing process in order to negotiate your medical bills. To do this, you will understand WHO the billers are, WHY they are calling and WHAT the billers want to hear in order to provide discounts and payment plans.
First, the WHO. For starters, “billers” are different from collection agencies. I use the term “billers” to define individuals who work as a part of the healthcare provider to collect the outstanding bill. Technically, these are not collection agents. Collection agents are third party, separate companies that take the healthcare provider’s debt and collect on the healthcare providers behalf. The collection agency then takes a cut of the final amount awarded.
Moral of the story? Billers are good. Collection agents are bad. In some cases, the biller will appear to be a separate company. This is because healthcare providers have formed large networks of companies to do business. If you are unsure whom you are taking to, just ask for their affiliation.
We want the bill to stay with the biller and out of collections. Collection agents are generally aggressive, intimidating and are the last step to adversely affect your credit score or take legal action if you do not pay. Billers have much more flexibility to work with you on deferments, interest free payment plans and negotiation of debt.
Let’s talk about the typical biller. A biller generally works a 40-hour workweek with some room for overtime. Billers generally start the day a little later because there are better odds to catch you in the evening. Billers want to avoid catching you at work. The average biller makes anywhere from 20-40 calls per day therefore using an average of 5-15 minutes per caller on an 8-hour day. The biller is generally incentivized with extra compensation if the biller can get your bill paid. This does not necessarily mean paid in full. Billers generally speak with patients who are hostile and therefore readily welcome a calm, reasonable and objective patient. Billers also do not have a lot of time for each call so billers appreciate information that is directly relevant to the case. This understanding of the biller will put you in the best position to negotiate. See the other blog articles for further tips on how to address an outstanding medical bill.
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