Odd, but effective: Negotiate doctor visit prices

| December 13, 2012

I wrote an article about dental health on the road last month, and I’ve had several people tell me they’ve used the information – especially keeping the little dental picks handy – to their benefit. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to pass tips along about staying healthier on the road. Trucking is a brutal profession on the body. Even small changes in habit can make a big impact on your overall health and every little bit helps. Staying healthy is expensive enough, but getting well from an illness can cripple a budget.

Regular check-ups are not only required by law in the form of a medical card every two years, they’re also extremely important and often overlooked. Most healthy people don’t think about going to the doctor much, and frankly, not a lot of us can afford to run off and have a bunch of tests and examinations unless we’re sick and it’s keeping us from work.

Medical insurance is the first thing companies go after when cutting costs, and independent professionals are paying for their own insurance. A thorough physical examination, including basic labs, will cost $350 for a man and $500 for a woman on average. If your insurance company doesn’t cover a yearly physical, or your deductible is high, this is an out-of-pocket cost most families can’t afford in today’s economy.

Here’s a tip: Try negotiating the cost. Insurance companies do it, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to. If your doctor’s office charges $90 for a visit, the insurance company is probably reimbursing them between $55 and $65.

If it’s Medicaid of Medicare, they’re being paid roughly half of what they charge. The claim has to be filed by someone who is being compensated hourly, and the office sometimes waits up to three months to actually see their money. Even if they charge a $25 co-pay, they’re still only seeing a portion of the $90 actually charged.

If you don’t have insurance, or are paying a cash price because of a huge deductible, ask to speak with the office manager or billing office and see if they’ll negotiate to the price an insurance company pays. You’d be surprised at how many facilities and offices will wheel and deal. They recognize that it’s much easier money, and everyone is happy in the end. Hence, repeat business and referrals.

Prevention is always the best medicine. Although it may seem too expensive to have that yearly exam, in the end it’s too expensive not to. A yearly dental exam with a cleaning and x-rays averages between $200-300. An emergency extraction costs somewhere around $700.

Dentists have a little more leeway when it comes to negotiating costs, there are a lot of independent dentists with small practices. The conglomerate corporate medical monster hasn’t consumed them, because their malpractice insurance is relatively low compared to medical doctors and they have more choices when it comes to billing options.

Keep in mind that ultimately, you are the customer. They are providing a service, and just like any other service contract, it should be fair and benefit both parties. A lot of people are intimidated by doctors, and they shouldn’t be. Most offices are as concerned about repeat business as they are patient care, they need you as much as you need them.

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