Cutting Hospital Costs - Part A

A trip to the hospital can destroy you financially if you don't have insurance—or if you don't read the fine print in your policy carefully.

In part, the problem exists because hospitals typically charge patients much more than they charge insurance companies for the same services.

$16,000, that's how much Allison and Jerry Greenberg saved by challenging the hospital bill for their daughter Kate's bunion surgery. The bill was much higher than expected, because their doctor uses a hospital that is outside their insurance company's network.

The insurance company said the charges were above what they thought was fair and reasonable. And they would not pay on anything above an amount they considered fair . Under the terms of their insurance policy, the Greenbergs were liable for the difference—of nearly $16,000.

The Greenbergs complained to the hospital and asked for the same discount that the hospital would give to an insurance company. They got nowhere. Jerry remembers, "They said that we owed the full amount, and that they weren't willing to negotiate."

Then they asked their daughter's surgeon for help. Dr. Selner says, "When the administration of the hospital knows that the doctor, who puts a lot of cases in that hospital, is unhappy, things move a lot faster. "

Selner on phone bill with graphic $13,000 selner examining feet ulene v.o. Once dr. Selner got involved, the hospital agreed to negotiate—and reduced the Greenbergs obligation by $13,000.

The Greenbergs say that if they had to do it again they'd still choose Dr. Selner, but they'd negotiate the discount ahead of time.

Allison says, "I would go to the hospital's business office and speak to them about the fact that they are out of network for my insurance and how do we negotiate a sum that we will owe them after the surgery. "

How to Cut your Medical Bills

  • Read the fine print in your policy
  • Call the insurance company before admission
  • If you must use a hospital outside your insurance company’s network, Dr. Ulene recommends that you call both the hospital and the insurance company ahead of time to find out how much extra it will really cost you.

Those two phone calls, and a little negotiation ahead of time, could save you thousands of dollars.