NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Patients Learn to Haggle With Doctors Over Their Bills

February 11, 2002

As health-care costs rise, growing numbers of Americans are requesting -- and sometimes getting -- discounts on their physician's bills.

  • Discounts can range as high as 30 percent -- on everything from eye examinations to fertility procedures.
  • The key is to offer to pay the discounted fee immediately -- rather than subject the doctor to periodic payments.
  • In fact, a new cottage industry of middlemen will negotiate the bills for patients -- and they report that their business is up as much as 25 percent over the past two years.
  • According to a new Harris poll, 17 percent of consumers asked for a discount on a medical bill in the past year -- and almost half said their request met with success.

Some hospitals will also offer discounts if they get a down payment that at least covers their costs.

Requests for a discount are more prevalent when patients are spending their own health-care dollars under "self-directed" health-care plans.

Patients undergoing procedures requiring two or more doctors should ask that their fees be "bundled," and a discount offered.

Source: Daniel Costello, "Patients Find Success Haggling as Health-Care Costs Climb," Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2002.


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