Yes, You Can Negotiate Medical Bills — and Here's How

If you're struggling with medical debt, you may be wondering how to reduce your healthcare costs and how to negotiate medical bills. Read on to learn how.


Mar. 9 2023, Updated 5:03 p.m. ET

A man looking at medical bills
Source: Getty Images

At times, the mailbox can cause anxiety, especially if you’re anticipating a high medical bill. Even if you have insurance, sometimes you may still end up with a large bill — like if you haven’t met your high deductible.

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After opening the envelope, you may be left wondering how to pay the bill: Take out a loan? Sell items in your closet? Ignore it?

Don’t list your expensive handbags online yet. You’ve got options — and we’re going to teach you how to negotiate medical bills so you can pay less.

How to negotiate medical bills and pay less.

Medical bills are created when a patient receives medical services from a healthcare provider, such as a hospital, doctor, or clinic. The billing process involves the following steps:

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  1. Registration – The patient arrives and provides personal and insurance information to create a patient record.
  2. Service delivery – The healthcare provider delivers the medical service.
  3. Documentation – The provider documents services provided.
  4. Coding – The provider documents the services administered to create an electronic or paper medical record.
  5. Healthcare billing The provider or department generates a bill based on services and costs and sends it to the patient.
  6. Payment – The patient or insurance company pays the bill.

Tactics to use when negotiating medical bills.

Medical debt can be crippling, but there are ways to reduce healthcare costs and get yourself in a better place, and one way is to negotiate your medical bills.

Here are some steps you can take to negotiate your medical debt:

  • Look for errors – Carefully review your bill to ensure everything is correct. If you spot an error, contact your provider or insurance company to dispute medical billing errors.
  • Request an itemized bill An itemized bill will help you identify any unnecessary charges that could be negotiated.
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  • Contact your provider or insurance company – Discuss your bill and explain your financial situation to the billing department to find out if there are financial assistance programs or payment plan options. If you can prove you can't pay your bills, you may be eligible for medical bill forgiveness and the hospital or provider will write off the unpaid medical bills as bad debt.
  • Hire a medical bill advocate – They’ll work with your healthcare provider or insurance company to negotiate your medical bills.
  • Offer cash payment – Many healthcare providers will give you a discount if you pay the bill in cash.

In some cases, you can get medical debt off your credit report.

Medical debt can have a negative impact on your credit score. Your unpaid bills will remain on your credit report until you pay it off in full. If you think the medical debt on your credit report isn't valid or has been resolved, you can dispute the debt with your credit reporting agency.

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