Hospital Bills - Negotiate Them!

Summer 2004 CSANews Issue 51  |  Posted date : May 10, 2007.Back to list

Dear Bird Talk,

My husband and I spend winters in Hemet, CA, and both of us have had to have medical attention there, at our own expense.

I was hospitalized with pneumonia in December 2002, a pre-existing condition on my insurance.

Remember, if you are paying the bill, you can deal.

When we got our statement from the hospital, the first thing we asked was, "how much off for cash?" The billing department stated 35 per cent, which was nice, but not good enough. We went back to their office and spent just five minutes complaining, and they agreed to a 45 per cent discount.

When the discharge doctor’s bill came, I wrote and asked if he could give me 45 per cent off. I told him that if I could get no discount, I’d have to pay $10 a month. He agreed to the discount, and gave me three months to pay – a reduced sum is better for him than a long, drawn-out payment.
California has an alcohol/tobacco tax which covers respiratory diseases, and my doctor is still trying to get them to pay the bill . We wait. I may still have to pay it, but it’s an avenue worth knowing about.

Snowbirds, remember that when you have pre-existing conditions, you must pay the bill and you will get very little back from the Canadian health-care system. Try to make the best deal you can. Keep in mind that you don’t want to pay more than 55 per cent – if you stick to your guns, you can prevail. My hospital and doctors saved my life, and I would have paid the complete bill, but why not have good health and a little money left over?

Trudy O’Rourke
Vernon, BC

Response:
It is always best to immediately notify your insurer prior to any medical procedure. Large discounts are often available and should be arranged before the bill is even issued, if possible. Well done and great advice.