"Health-"Care" USA: Part II (The Art of the Deal)"
Would you be surprised to hear that we can all haggle about our hospital bills as if we were dealing with an amiable rug-merchant in a Moroccan souk?
I know, it surprised me too!
Consider the following quote from Victoria Zackheim about her own experience with this phenomenon:
"In the spring, I contacted Blue Cross and upped my deductible to $5000. I'm on no prescription meds and never get hurt, so why not pay less every month, right? And then I fell down my stairs and the bills (ambulance, fire truck...don't ask me why they came, too!...emergency room, CAT scans, etc.) were...yep, you guessed it...around $5,000. I was screwed. One day, beset by annoyance (at myself, but still...), I called Blue X and got a Customer Service rep. I said something like, "I've been pouring money into your company for thirty years...and for what! A thousand dollars for the firemen? Twelve hundred for the ambulance? And why another three thousand for the hospital?" She very sweetly said, "You know, you can lodge a protest." When I moaned, she added, "I'll do it for you." And she did. That's when I learned that Blue X, Blue Shield, and most insurers EXPECT us to challenge a bill...and often back down. If we don't challenge it, all the better for them. The upshot? I paid $200 for the ambulance, a bit less for the firemen, and the hospital refunded nearly $2000 dollars...all because one woman told me I could challenge those charges...Since then, I've spoken to a few people who saved up to $20,000 in hospital bills because they knew about this. Those who did not were royally enraged."
As far as that goes, well, my own daughter had the exact same experience. She was initially presented with a $5000 tab for her daughter's 3-day hospital stay (no operation- just for simple observation!). But when she went to that hospital's chief bean-counter (the guy with the tie), he immediately offered to lower it to "just" $2000 if she was willing to pay it in full right away.
My daughter was so shocked by this hospital's: "LOWEST Prices of the Season! Take 60% off EVERY Item in Stock!!" offer, that she accepted it with the speed usually reserved for one of those infamous Black Friday shopping sprints/slugfests.
I think I'll invest in a subscription to "Physician's Weekly" or the "Journal of the American Medical Association"- just in case they start offering coupons...