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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. talk. Your doctor is unlikely to be aware of your financial situation. You They are the ones that let your doctor know that you do not have health insurance. Ask your doctor (or nurse, receptionist, or patient accounts department) if there is a discount available for uninsured patients. Ask them if they will accept a little less. If your doctor agrees, be sure to keep your part of the agreement. (And don’t forget to say thank you.)

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

3. Spend your money wisely. Convince your doctor you’re managing your money responsibly, then apply for a one-time discount until your finances are in shape. Get in the habit of paying for necessities before you indulge in luxuries. If you can’t afford to take care of yourself (like 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.

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

5. Organize your thoughts and goals in advance. Often, patients do not 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 dredging up every problem you can think of; it may be counterproductive. Ask the receptionist what the price is for office visits of different lengths, then plan accordingly. mention to 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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