As health care costs rise rapidly, we must stay informed and investigate all of our options for staying healthy without going bankrupt. It might be intimidating at first to speak with your doctor about their rates, but dealing directly with the source of health care costs is one way to guarantee that you’re balancing your budget, right from the start. Learn how to do it in my book Your Best Health Care Now: Get Doctor Discounts, Save With Better Health Insurance, Find Affordable Prescriptions Now.
Medical costs are a lot like airline tickets. They range widely and are negotiable. So, yes, you can ask for a discount, especially if you are paying cash because you have a high-deductible health plan; people with insurance are not legally obligated to use it. Or perhaps you don’t have insurance at all. Or you simply can’t afford the full fee. One study showed that more than 60 percent of patients who asked for discounts got them.
As you’d imagine, patients have to raise the issue. And they should do it before the examination begins, if possible, face-to-face with the doctor. Once they earnestly describe their financial circumstances, some doctors routinely cut their rates in half or even ask for as little as 10 percent. In rare cases, they might manage to provide the care for free.
Dr. Fine recalled that when he was practicing in dirt-poor eastern Tennessee, a teacher with no health insurance walked unsteadily into his office. From the patient’s severe lack of balance, Dr. Fine knew he needed an MRI of his brain stem immediately. He also knew the low-paid teacher didn’t have the hundreds of dollars to pay for it.
“I called around to some friends with MRI equipment,” said Dr. Fine, “and I made it happen for free.”