It all started when one of our colleagues at Trim got sick and had to go to the ER. She was fine, but the bill she got was insane. How could a routine procedure cost so much?
Turns out — it doesn’t. Hospitals bill patients excessively high rates because, secretly, they expect many people won’t pay the full amount. We did more research and found out that nearly every medical bill is negotiable.
Americans spend $3.3 trillion on healthcare every year. Medical costs are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy — and debilitating stress. At Trim, our mission is to make Americans more financially healthy. We had to do something.
We’re open-sourcing our learnings from the many medical bills we’ve negotiated. Our hope is that Americans start to negotiate every single bill — saving themselves billions of dollars.
Full disclosure: Trim negotiates medical bills so if you want someone else to negotiate on your behalf, we’re happy to do so.
Almost any medical bills are possible to negotiate. The only exceptions we’ve seen are laboratory tests.
Who and when to call?
Take a look at your medical bill. On the first page there should be contact info for the billing department — usually a phone number and opening hours. Wait times for your call are usually heaviest around lunch and before and after work, when everyone else is calling. If you can, try finding an off-hours time to call in.
What’s my strategy?
You should decide if you want to pursue one of two strategies:
1. Pay some today.
If you have plenty of cash available, you can wield outsized negotiating leverage if you’re willing to pay some amount now
2. Pay a small amount every month until you pay off the total balance.
If you’re strapped for cash, you should focus on getting the smallest possible monthly payment, and stretch that out over a long period of time.
What are my options?
Based on our experience negotiating for thousands of Trim customers, we typically see two options presented:
1. Settle the account at a discount.
Medical providers are usually desperate to get you to pay anything. If you offer to pay a percentage of the total amount, they may agree to take that and call it a day.
2. Set up a 0% APR payment plan to pay the balance over time.
Most providers now offer zero-interest payment plans. They are hoping that you will pay them the full amount even if it takes a long time.
There are always exceptions! See below for more tips on the magic words to say on a call.
What to say?
First, ask how much is owed on the account.
Then, say that due to the current economic climate, you’re exploring options to settle the account (if strategy 1) or pay the account over time (if strategy 2).
If you’re trying to settle the account, keep pushing for the greatest possible discount. You can say things like, “I’m willing to pay you money today to settle the account completely. However, in order to do that, I’d need you to offer a 40% discount on the total balance. Will you accept my offer?”
If you’re seeking a payment plan, push the provider for the longest possible plan. This will enable you to get a lower monthly payment amount. If they offer 24 months, ask for 48 months.
What if it doesn’t work?
- Stay on the line.
- Keep being polite! You’re more likely to get help if you’re very polite.
- Keep asking questions.
- Ask about hardship programs or financial assistance.
- Ask for a supervisor.