If you're one of the many who put off going to the doctor because of the cost, you're not alone. However, there comes a time when we all have to pay the doc a visit, which means dealing with the bills afterward. Even if you have insurance, the total cost of what you owe can make you feel sick to your stomach. The good news is that the dollar amounts aren't written in stone and can be adjusted. Whether you practice preventative measures or negotiate your way to a better deal, there are several ways you can save money on your doctor bills and severely cut down on what you owe.
Work out a payment plan up front
Before you even start a procedure or tests, let your doctor know your financial situation. Many are understanding with patients, especially those who don't have insurance, and are willing to work with them to come to an agreement. However, make sure to do it up front so both of you know where you stand. Also, get a written breakdown of what the charges are going to be before anything is started.
Negotiate on the charges
Ask if there's any way you can negotiate on the charges. For example, some offices give patients a discount if they pay by cash. Processing credit card payments costs money, so both of you benefit in the end. Many patients will hesitate to ask, but the office isn't likely to offer the discounts to you on a silver platter, so if you want a break you're going to have to make the request.
Keep up with your doctor bills
One of the best ways to set your self up for discounts and the ability to negotiate in the future is to keep up with your doctor bills now. There were a couple of times when my good standing with making payments allowed me to negotiate if I couldn't pay the full amount right away. I was told since I had a good record of paying in the past that they trusted me to continue to do the same.
Take advantage of free tests
There are a variety of ways to get free tests, but you have to keep your eye out for them. Some drug stores offer them and town health centers often have free tests or screenings a few times a year. For up-to-date news about when they're going on, register for e-mails on their website and read the local newspaper.
Check over your bills
Checking over my doctor bills has saved me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Considering I knew the costs up front of what was going to be done, I made sure to review my bills when I got them. I caught quite a few discrepancies that I was able to catch and have corrected. Review your bills as soon as you get them to avoid paying more than you have to.
Get generic medications
Before your doctor puts his signature on the prescription slip, ask him if there's a generic medication that's just as effective. Often they'll work just as well as the brand name but will cost you a fraction of what you would normally pay.
Comparison shop for prescriptions
Whenever I need to get a prescription, I call around to the local pharmacies and ask how much they charge for a specific medicine. It seems like a waste of time, but in some cases I saved ten or twenty dollars each prescription just by making a few calls and going to a pharmacy up the block instead of around the corner.
Practice preventative care
Washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, cleaning off your keyboard, purse and phone, not sharing drinks and toothbrushes and not biting your nails are some of the best preventative measures you can take to keep yourself from getting sick. Even basic changes in your routine can make a huge difference.
Teach your family preventative care
There are so many people who get sick because their family or partner got sick. Making sure your family practices basic preventative care techniques can make a huge difference in how many times a year anyone in your home gets sick and has to run to the doctor.
With so many ways to save money on doctor bills, there's no reason you should ever have to pay full cost. Some small changes can mean the difference between having an empty wallet and having money left over after paying your bills.
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