Get Professionals to Negotiate Your Medical Bills
July 8, 2008
Vol. 4, Issue 6
Large employers, insurance companies, and PPO networks all negotiate directly with hospitals and other medical providers to negotiate discounts on their list prices. HSA for America has secured the services of a company that will provide the same service for our members with no up-front costs. This has the potential to lower your medical exposure by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.your money while keeping your expenses to a minimum.
The Mystery of Medical Pricing Revealed
For the second year in a row, my son has gotten painted up as Spider Man to celebrate the 4th of July.
Who is that masked man?
Just as the superhero always wants to keep his face hidden behind a mask, hospitals and medical providers seem to want to keep their prices mysterious and hidden from view. For example, I just went to the website for Poudre Valley Hospital, here in Fort Collins, Colorado, to see if I could find their pricing. I figured that I would at least be able to see how much a semi-private room costs per night. But no luck - no where on their site was I able to find anything letting me know how much they charge.
If I were to call and do some hard probing, I could probably get a "list price", with qualifications explaining to me that the actual charge could vary. But the problem is that virtually no one actually pays the list price. In fact, typically only someone with money, but no insurance, ends up paying retail.
All of the large customers of the hospital (including large employers, insurance companies, PPO networks, and other managed care associations) actually negotiate special discounts for themselves. If you currently have an insurance plan that uses a PPO, you have probably seen a medical bill that has been "re-priced" after the negotiated discount was applied.
But how do you know if you are getting the best discount available? This is particularly important if you have a high deductible. And what if you incur a medical expense that is not covered by your insurance - are you stuck paying the elevated list price that no one else actually pays?
Avoid Paying "Sticker Price" on your Medical Bills
The only time I've ever been hospitalized was right after returning from a trip to Peru, and getting acute appendicitis. (I'm convinced this was the result of suddenly going on a diet of mostly rice and potatoes, but that's another story.)
That's when I first discovered the value of this type of service. It took me about 5 minutes to submit my medical bills for review. A few days later I was notified that the hospital had reduced the amount that I had to pay by about $200.
Some people save a lot more. Here's one man's story:
My wife handled all of our bills. When she died at age 47, I was left to raise our 2 young daughters. I kept getting bills from doctors, hospitals and laboratories regarding my deceased wife's treatment. I sent a package of bills to INSNET and they successfully reduced my balance with all 7 providers, saving me in excess of $2,500. Their easy to understand report simply told me how much each provider would accept; it sure made my life a little less stressful.
Mark R., Sabattus, Maine
As HSA plans continue to become more popular, medical providers will be forced to compete in the open marketplace for customers, just as all other businesses do. This will result in lower prices and better service for all. In the mean time it is important that consumers be vigilant when looking at their medical bills and comparing prices and providers.
How INSNET Works
Since 1985 Insurance Negotiating Service has saved insurance companies and self-funded employers millions of dollars by negotiating medical claims. As INSNET, they are now making their services available to individuals, and are offering special rates only for HSA for America members and visitors.
Whenever you have a medical bill over $200, submit it to INSNET. The charges will be compared to other claims in the geographic area the services were provided and reviewed by their negotiator. If INSNET believes they can negotiate a lower price, they will contact the medical provider and attempt to settle the patient balance for a more reasonable amount.
I spoke with the owner of INSNET about what kind of savings they have been able to achieve. Though there is no guarantee, this is the range of discounts they have been able to negotiate:
|Durable Medical Equipment||20-35%|
|Orthotics & Prosthetics||10-29%|
Special Pricing Available to Our Readers
It costs you nothing to submit your bill to INSNET. Simply sign up through our INSNET Medical Bill Negotiation page, then any time you have a medical bill over $200 simply submit it through the website, or mail or fax it in. You can then check the status of the claim at any time, or discuss the situation with a patient advocate.
If INSNET is able to negotiate lower prices, you get 70% of the savings. (Their normal take is 35% of the savings, so you are also able to take advantage of the negotiating power of HSA for America!). If they are unable to save you money, then there is no charge.
Save Money Wherever You Can
There are no rewards given out for spending too much on your medical expenses. Especially in times of rising gas prices and a falling stock market, anything you can do to keep more of your money in your pocket will help.
Our specialty is helping you save money on your health insurance and medical expenses. If you've been reading this newsletter for long, you know I recommend that you don't pay retail for prescription drugs or lab tests, that you comparison shop, and that you of course carry an HSA-qualified health insurance plan, fund the account, and make sure your insurance agent shops your coverage for you each year. You can read about many of these services on our Additional Benefits page.
By taking personal responsibility for managing your medical expenses in these ways, you will save money every year.
P.S. - Next month we'll talk about how to use your HSA to pay for dental expenses, and how preventing periodontal disease may reduce your other medical expenses as well.