Monday, June 20, 2011

Save 20% on your hospital bills

Had to go to the emergency room a month ago for an issue that was urgent, but no means life-threatening.  (A cut finger that was a little too deep for a Band-aid, but not so severe as to need stitches.  They ended up using this special wound glue.)

Insurance covered a portion, but my share still seemed excessive.

The first person I spoke to in the billing department told me that based on my type of insurance policy, the hospital policy is to not offer any kind of negotiated discount.

I asked what were some of the line items on the bill, and was told "splint, pulse..."
"Oh, pulse - how much was that?" I asked.
"$100 to take a pulse?  Doesn't that take about 20 seconds?"
"Well, I'm not sure, but this was using a stethoscope."
"But it still takes about 20 seconds, right?  Doesn't $100 to take a pulse sound a little bit excessive?"
"These charges are approved by New York State."
"Well, that might be true, but I'd like to speak to a supervisor."

So I spoke to the supervisor.

At first was told the same thing.  So I told the supervisor I would need to see a detailed line item break-down of the bill, but not just with the insurance codes; I wanted to see an actual plain-language explanation for each line item.  "That's reasonable, isn't it? To provide me with a description of what I'm actually being billed for?"

Then I asked, "OK, just one question.  Have you ever, in your history of  working in the billing department, ever provided a customer with a negotiated discount? Maybe said, 'Look, OK, if you pay now in cash we'll take 50% off.'"

"Our maximum discount that we offer is 20%," the supervisor told me.

"Great - I'll take the 20%, and I'll pay now on the phone."

Who knows, perhaps I could have gotten an even bigger discount, but I thought that the time invested to the payoff received was the best I was going to get. Perhaps if I had been willing to demand that plain language explanation, write some letters to the CEO of the hospital, challenge each line item, the final discount would have been even greater.  In this case, it took 10 minutes to get 20% off a $600 bill: $120 per 10 minutes, or $720 per hour.  That is a call I'm happy to make.

1 comment:

  1. great story, I will try this myself as we have stacks of hospital bills from two kids who have needed surgery and hospital workups! thanks!


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