PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For many people, healthcare costs are ballooning. Even if you have health insurance, many doctors and procedures may not be covered. High deductibles and the portion the patient pays are taking a bigger bite than ever.

Still, Consumer Reports says even in these tough times, you can lower your healthcare costs by negotiating with your doctor, hospital, or other healthcare provider.

Shari DiPaola said the bills for her son’s cystic fibrosis seemed overwhelming until she decided simply to ask to pay less. She’s saved thousands of dollars this way.

“When you go to buy a house, you negotiate the price. Sometimes even in retail you go to negotiate the price. Why not the medical bills?” DiPaola said.

Consumer Reports’ Dr. Orly Avitzur said even those with insurance can save money by negotiating.

“The best time to negotiate is early in the process, before treatment is underway, especially if your insurance won’t cover it,” Avitzur said.

The doctor recommends starting out by researching the cost of the treatment. One site, healthcarebluebook.com, makes it easy to check prices on many procedures.

“Once you know the average price of treatment, see if your doctor will lower your bill. Another strategy is to see if your doctor will settle for the typical discounted prices paid by insurance companies,” Avitzur said.

It’s also a good idea to ask if the tests and treatments being recommended are the only option.

“Many times there are less expensive options that are just as effective. Let your doctor know that cost is a factor,” Avitzur said.

Avitzur said hospital changes are also possible to negotiate.

“Make sure the billing department knows that you’re willing to work out a payment plan. And then propose an amount and a timetable that you can manage,” Avitzur said.

Shari said you can’t be shy about asking.

Consumer Reports advises settling all questions about cost before paying the medical bill. You’ll have more leverage for bargaining that way.

“There is a possibility that you can bring the price down. I’ve seen it, it’s happened. It’s been a blessing,” DiPaola said.

Consumer Reports advises settling all questions about the cost before paying the medical bill. You’ll have more leverage for bargaining that way.


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