Are you uninsured, or have a high deductible insurance? If you are going into a doctor's office, try to negotiate before you even see the doctor. Let them know you are uninsured or underinsured, and that you'll be paying cash upfront. Ask how much of a discount they give for that. Almost always, you can take about 20 to 30\% off the top for paying cash upfront. This is because you are saving the office the hassle of having to go through insurance and wait for months for their money. Billing insurance costs them when it comes to payroll (having an employee bill each item out to insurance, negotiate responses, bill you for the rest, etc.), and it costs them when it comes to the amount of time it takes for insurance to pay. In essence, you are saving them money by paying upfront, and therefore, you should be rewarded with a discount.
Are you insured, but have just received a large bill for the uncovered portion of a procedure or service? Call the billing office and ask for a discount if you pay in full right now. If you take advantage of their payment plan, they are losing money, because most medical offices to not charge interest when they set someone up on a payment plan. Therefore, if you request a discount, they will most likely honor at least a 10 to 20\% discount, because you are saving them money in the area of payroll (not having to bill you monthly), as well as the lost interest on your payments.
Are you afraid to take these steps? Don't be. Medical offices are used to negotiations; This certainly won't be the first time they've received this type of request. The number one most important thing to remember is that a large portion of what you are being charged is the "labor," so to speak, and that is undoubtedly a negotiable, not fixed, cost. Secondly, anytime you are able to pay upfront, you are saving them a lot of money - think about it: They have to pay someone in their billing office to bill you (maybe monthly), or bill insurance (and these things do take time, trust me!), postage/paper products costs of doing all this business, etc. Believe me when I say, you will most likely be impressed with the results that you get when you request a discount!
Tips and Warnings
But, I'm here to tell you, you're not at the mercy of all of these medical providers when it comes to what you owe! There are ways to negotiate, and I'm here to tell you how.