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Many Hospitals, Doctors Offer Cash Discount For Medical Bills

Monday, May 28, 2012 - 1:23 PM
Interesting article on health care costs and price transparency from the Los Angeles Times
The lowest price is usually available only if patients don't use their health insurance. In one case, blood tests that cost an insured patient $415 would have been $95 in cash.

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Ken TuminKen Tumin5,471 posts since
Nov 29, 2009
Rep Points: 125,634
1. Monday, May 28, 2012 - 3:20 PM
Whenever I have gotten a doctor or hospital (especially) bill for my portion after insurance paid, I always call and ask them what will it cost me if I pay the full amount that day.  I have been amazed at the great discount they have given me for paying quickly.  The problem is that they don't advertise this practice and if you don't think to ask, you are expected to pay the charge for whatever is billed.  For them it's better to have the smaller amount paid in full than to have to keep billing us or sending it to a collection agency.  I haven't tried this with doctors because they usually take what the insurance pays and are not allowed to charge us for the difference once we pay our copay.  I also never pay any medical bills until I get the EOBs (Explanation of Benefits) from the particular insurance company so I can verify what I really owe on the bill .  I only pay what the EOB states I owe.
paoli2paoli21,401 posts since
Aug 10, 2011
Rep Points: 6,135
2. Monday, May 28, 2012 - 10:36 PM
Doesn't that tell us that something is really wrong with our entire medical system??
51hh51hh1,476 posts since
Jan 16, 2010
Rep Points: 6,427
3. Monday, May 28, 2012 - 11:22 PM
I read that story the other day -- and I have my doubts about it. In fact, I have found the exact opposite -- because insurance companies have a MAJOR bargaining chip to get prices reduced. If they pull their customers from a hospital or doctor, that hospital or doctor loses a LOT. Typically, if they charge $10,000 for an insurance company, they will charge an individual more like $30,000 (or more) --- not less. Then they will negotiate you down, as if they are giving you a big favor, and say only $20,000. And with you pushing more, then they will drop to $15,000 and say that is it, you must pay, you are getting it at half price, you are cheating them -- yet, you are actually still paying 50% more than they charge most people, because most people get the insurance rate.

I don't know, but I suspect that maybe the prices that reporter got are not for everything that gets charged for these procedures and he/she didn't realize that. Rest assured, the insurance companies are not paying 1¢ more than is absolutely necessary -- that's how they make money, and they have serious leverage to get that low price. 

I suspect, for instance, that when the reporter got quoted for a CT scan price, it did not include the doctor charge to review the scan, the charge to write the report, and who knows how many other charges that actually make it notably more than an insurance company would pay. They probably simply quoted the specific hospital part of the charge, not the doctor charges, the technician charges and other things.

But yes, something is VERY wrong with our medical system prices! VERY wrong -- for EVERYTHING, not just for doctors or just for insurance. And for our very high prices, our medical treatment is rated well below that of a number of other countries where prices are a fraction of what we pay.
me1004me1004373 posts since
Jan 16, 2010
Rep Points: 2,597
4. Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 8:58 AM
You are both right, imo.  There is something very wrong with our medical system and I have written lots of letters to Washington about it.  That reporter, imo, is missing a very important point.  If we pay cash and we don't get the negotiated "contracted" price, we are going to get ****ed!  To prove this, look at the price on your EOBs which is charged and then look at the "contracted" price.  Quite a difference!  When I negotiate for a discount by paying cash asap, it is always on the contracted price.  I have had certain medical offices try to get me to pay the difference which the insurance disallows and I tell them to read their contract and take it up with my insurance company.  I only owe what the EOB says I owe!  Isn't it sad how much stress we still have to endure even if we do have insurance? 
paoli2paoli21,401 posts since
Aug 10, 2011
Rep Points: 6,135