A medical emergency can be scary in more ways than one. Not only are they expensive, but they can put you in a position to make hard choices about your finances—especially if you can’t tap into an emergency fund. There are some small actions that you can do, however, to make sure you stay ahead when emergencies happen. With a little extra effort and some financial savvy, you may be able to save money on the cost of a medical emergency.
Here are 5 tips to help you find ways to save money on the costs of a medical emergency.
1. Start an Emergency Fund
It’s never too late to start saving. And if you have an emergency fund, having medical bills is a definitely a reason to tap into it.
By setting aside money as part of your monthly budget to start an emergency fund, you could have the ability to quickly pay down medical bill debts. Medical providers may be more willing to negotiate payment plans with you if you are able to pay some or all of your bills up front.
Also consider starting a Health Savings Account (HSA), a savings plan specifically for medical expenses. The money in an HSA is used to help those with high-deductible insurance plans meet their deductibles.
No matter how you choose to save the money, it is important to make the choice to start saving.
2. Watch for Mistakes on Billing
Four out of 5 medical bills may contain at least a minor error. This means you could overpay for a medical emergency. Consider taking each of the following steps before paying a medical bill in full:
Request an Itemized Bill
The Explanation of Benefits (EOB) that your insurance company sends you is not a detailed breakdown of all of the costs associated with your medical procedures. It’s an overview of what was billed to the insurance company, what the insurance company covered, and what you should expect to pay out of pocket to the care provider.
Request an itemized bill from the medical care provider that lists what services you received, and any additional costs.
Know the Real Cost of Medical Procedures
Many insurance companies allow consumers to search the costs of medical procedures on their websites. Take a moment to research the actual costs of procedures, what the negotiated rates through your insurance company are, and how much your insurance company covers.
Review Your Bill Closely
Once you know how much procedures should cost you, closely review your bill for charges for services you may not have received, or overcharges. Go through each line carefully and check for possible mistakes for both the provider and insurer.
While it may be difficult during times of stress and emergency, try to keep an account of all of the interactions, procedures, and medications during the time of your care. That way, you can be prepared when reviewing your bills.
3. Negotiate Your Medical Bills
Different doctors and hospitals approach negotiations of medical bills differently, but there may be wiggle room.
Gerard Anderson, former director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management, argues that a single hospital will bill everyone the same, no matter what type of insurance a patient has. This is called the hospital’s charges-to-cost. You may be able to negotiate with the hospital on what your actual payment should be—which can save you money.
Keep in mind that this can turn into a long process with rejection. But it could be worth your time to be persistent. Speaking up can potentially save you a lot of money during these medical emergencies.
4. Get Help from a Professional
If you don’t feel you are prepared to negotiate your medical bills, there are experts who can help you. Their services aren’t usually free, but paying a smaller fee to a professional may be able to save you a sizeable chunk of your initial bill.
These professionals are medical billing advocates or patient advocates, and they are trained to look for any medical billing errors or opportunities for negotiation.
Here are a couple of resources that you can use to search out someone who can help you:
5. Avoid High-Interest Payment Plans and Credit Cards
Even if you are prepared and have a medical emergency fund, medical bills can still put you out. It can be easy to access funds quickly through high-interest payment plans and credit cards. You may be able to get money upfront, but they often come with a lot of payoff expenses.
Be vigilant about accessing quick money, and ensure you’re making the right choice if you tap into new credit.
P.S. You can check your rates for a Best Egg personal loan to pay for medical expenses anytime.
Be Proactive in Managing Your Medical Bills
When it comes to medical expenses (especially in a medical emergency), be proactive and do your research. It never hurts to ask questions—especially when you’re in a new or stressful situation.
By being proactive, researching costs, carefully reviewing your bills, and trying to negotiate, you can set yourself up to save money on the cost of a medical emergency.
Take initiative, ask questions, and be smart about where your money is going.