Doctor visits: 5 tips to help you save money

Why do uninsured patients pay more for doctor visits?

Aside from not having health insurance, it’s because they don’t know the system. Uninsured patients don’t know that everyone else gets a discount. From Medicare to Medicaid, HMO to PPO, all groups get a discount EXCEPT for the uninsured. Discounts are given in order to generate more business.

To the uninsured this does not seem fair. But it is possible to pay less.

Here are 5 proven tips to save money on office visits:

1. speak. Your doctor is unlikely to be aware of your financial situation. You they are the ones that let your doctor know that you don’t have health insurance. Ask the doctor (or nurse, receptionist, or patient accounts department) if a discount is available for patients without insurance. Ask them if they will accept a little less. If your doctor agrees, be sure to follow through on your part of the agreement. (And don’t forget to say thank you.)

two. Request a discount on billing. It costs time and money to generate a monthly bill. If you pay at the time of your visit, it’s a good idea to request a discount on billing. Even if it’s only $5, that’s enough for a meal.

3. Spend your money wisely. Convince your doctor that you’re handling your money responsibly, then ask for a one-time discount until your finances are in shape. Develop the habit of paying for necessities before you indulge in luxuries. If you can’t afford to take care of yourself (such as paying the doctor), can you afford to buy tobacco or alcohol or lottery tickets? Is it reasonable to ask for a discount because you spent $300 on your pet? (This happens, more often than you think.) Doctors want to help patients who help themselves, so start by doing your part.

Four. Ask for a discount on laboratory tests. The retail “surcharge” on lab tests is significant. Just as fast-food chains make a higher profit margin on soda than on hamburgers, doctors’ offices often make more on lab tests than medical services. The good news is that this leaves room for discounts. But it is unlikely that a discount will be offered automatically; again, you must speak.

5. Organize your thoughts and goals ahead of time. Patients often don’t realize that doctors charge for their time. A long office visit costs more than a short one. Don’t try to “get your money’s worth” by bringing up every problem you can think of; it may backfire. Ask the receptionist what the price is for office visits of different lengths, then plan accordingly. Mention your doctor at the beginning of your appointment that you would like to limit your expenses by optimizing your time with him or her.

Try these ideas the next time you visit your doctor. We hope you will be pleasantly surprised.

Copyright 2010 Cynthia J Koelker MD

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