While my brother in law was in the hospital with lung cancer my sister (his wife) was admitted for a heart attack and had several stints or shunts or something surgically put in to keep her alive.
She is close to her parents and they took care of her daughter for her during her stay but she had no one to advocate for her.
Even with good insurance she walked out of the hospital owing $50,000. Yikes!
Fast forward to a few years later and her husband has died, she is still paying off the $50,000 and has another major surgery planned.
Now, my sister is one of the least assertive people that I know. If there is a problem with her phone bill and she has to call and try to get it straightened out, she will end up crying and probably yelling as well. I just don’t get it.
So before she went for this next surgery I had her practice role playing with me and my niece. I actually wrote out scripts for them to follow.
The idea was for her to make an appointment with the billing department of the hospital and go in and negotiate. Her goal was to get the hospital (and all doctors) to accept ONLY what the insurance company paid. Which is a huge chunk of money, they should be happy.
So if they said no to that she was to ask what the best deal they could make her was. Would they give her 75% off? 50%? 25%?
Really, for anything less than 100% of her portion as a deduction I told her to write down all the numbers, thank them for their time and tell them she was going to shop around. She lives in a small town but there are 2 other hospitals there.
I instructed her that if at any time during the negotiation she felt like she was going to lose it and cry or yell she was to look at her watch and say “I am so sorry, I just realized that I am late to pick up my daughter. Please accept my apologies and let me reschedule”. And dash out of the room.
We practiced this many, many times. Sigh. But it worked. She kept her cool, the hospital agreed to accept the amount her insurance was paying only and actually by the time she got out of the hospital this time she found out that they had written off the rest of the $50,000 she owed from the first visit.
It works. I’ve done it on several occasions when I had insurance but not the huge deductible or 20% of $100,000. Once I even managed to schedule my hospital stay for the first of the year so not only did I not have to pay any out of pocket, I met my yearly deductible with that stay.
That was the good old days when I had insurance – crappy scam that it was. Now, with no insurance I use a city/public hospital, a few great clinics in town and negotiate with all my doctors.
Have you ever negotiated your fee? How did it work? What advice do you have for others?
Monday Night Cancer Club is a Daily Kos group focused on dealing with cancer, primarily for cancer survivors and caregivers, though clinicians, researchers, and others with a special interest are also welcome. Volunteer diarists post Monday evenings between 7:30-8:30 PM ET on topics related to living with cancer, which is very broadly defined to include physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive aspects. Mindful of the controversies endemic to cancer prevention and treatment, we ask that both diarists and commenters keep an open mind regarding strategies for surviving cancer, whether based in traditional, Eastern, Western, allopathic or other medical practices. This is a club no one wants to join, in truth, and compassion will help us make it through the challenge together.