Medical Billing in California: How To Negotiate Your Bills

A recent article about medical billing in the New York Times addressed a topic that generally gets little attention, but is certainly relevant to almost all Californians, not the least of which are those who suffered a personal injury due to another’s negligence, as the economy continues to hemorrhage. The piece noted that according to the American Hospital Association, half of their members reported an increase in the number of patients needing help with their bills. And that was in November, before the national unemployment rate hit 8.1 percent.

Keep in mind, the article went on to say, that doctors, hospitals and medical labs are accustomed to negotiating. After all, they do it all the time with insurers. A hospital may have a dozen or more rates for one procedure, depending on whether Medicare, Medicaid or a private insurer is paying the bill, said Ruth Levin, a corporate senior vice president for managed care of Continuum Health Partners. Your request for a special arrangement will hardly confound their accounting department.

The Times author did a nice job of identifying an approach to dealing with your health care provider or your physician about your medical bills. She suggested patients are often unnecessarily intimidated by physicians. Don’t be. Talk directly to your doctor about your financial situation. If that makes you uncomfortable, then go to the billing manager. The office may be able to offer you a discount of 10 to 30 percent depending on the practice (specialists may offer a bigger break), or propose a plan in which you pay your balance in a few installments or on a monthly basis — typically at no interest.

If you are respectful, the health care provider will likley respond more favorably. And offer to pay cash upfront. You will likley get a small discount, regardless of your current financial status.

If you end up with a bill you can’t pay — or at least can’t pay right away — don’t panic. Find out what Medicare would pay for your condition or surgery, since that program tends to pay less than private insurers. You can learn that at the federal Department of Health and Human Services database,, by clicking on the gray button “find and compare hospitals,” said Dr. Davis Liu, a family doctor and author from California.

For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.

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