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Personal Finance: Nursing your wallet at the doctor's office

Doctor

Doctor

For the more than one million people in the city who are uninsured, the rising cost of health care and prescription drugs can be a serious financial drain. Fortunately, as New Yorkers, we can count on one of our best skills to score health care savings: haggling.

I recently spoke with Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center in Yonkers, about how to get a discount at the doctor’s office.

Book a meeting
Don’t be hesitant to meet with your doctor if you’re worried about costs. Many physicians will sit down with their patients to discuss ways to better finance a treatment or exam.

“Doctors have a fiduciary obligation to help you. But if you don’t ask for help, you’re not going to get help,” said Santa.

Ignore sticker prices
Prices quoted at your doctor’s office are often “highly inflated,” said Santa. They’re usually 30% to 50% more than prices quoted to insurance providers, so you have some significant wiggle room to negotiate and ask for a discount.

Check your bill
You may remember getting just one x-ray, but your bill has five line items. Ask your physician for your actual medical report. Mistakes happen, said Santa, especially on hospital bills. A study by the Medical Billing Advocates of America found that 80% of hospital bills contain errors.


Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance expert, TV personality and the best-selling author of “Psych Yourself Rich.” Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv and at twitter.com/Farnoosh.

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