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Hospitals versus patients: Negotiations can and do happen

Receiving a medical bill in the mail can be traumatic, as staying just a few nights in the hospital can lead to hundreds or thousands of dollars in debt. If you receive a bill that is exorbitantly high, what recourse do you have?

The first option to consider is negotiating. With the internet, it's possible to see discrepancies between how much one hospital charges over another, giving you the opportunity to haggle the costs of your services. As an added bonus, hospitals are actually willing to negotiate in many cases, which can help lower your bill.

You can also ask to be put on a payment plan. This helps you pay the debt over time instead of worrying about coming up with a huge chunk of cash at one time. You might also ask to pay a reduced rate if you are able to make a lump sum payment immediately. Remember that hospital prices don't always reflect their actual costs, so there is room for negotiation with any of these options.

Hospitals also have financial-assistance programs in place that can help those who can't afford to pay all, or sometimes even any, of the bill. These programs can cut down on your costs, even if you aren't below the federal poverty line.

If you don't want to negotiate yourself, you could opt to work with a professional negotiator. An attorney or patient advocate can help you reach out and haggle for the best price for all the services you received. They can help you dispute charges and get the best deal on your treatment.

Source: Forbes, "7 Tips For Fighting And Paying A Big Hospital Bill," Caroline Mayer, accessed Nov. 21, 2016

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