10 smart moves to save on health care

Ask providers for a discount

You’ll have the most bargaining power if you negotiate a discount with the provider’s billing office in advance, then pay before having the procedure.

If it’s too late for that, you still have options.

If you ask, the provider may give you a "prompt pay" discount of perhaps 15% in exchange for immediate payment upon receiving your bill after insurance has processed your claim, since so many people pay their medical bills slowly over time or not at all.

"A consumer should aim for an overall discount of at least 35% if the charges are not fair and reasonable," says Pat Palmer of the patient advocacy group Medical Billing Advocates of America. "However, just like with any negotiation, you should start high and work your way down slowly. For instance, try to start off negotiations by requesting a 50% discount, then reply appropriately to the facility's response."

Palmer says you should be prepared to explain why you are seeking a discount or bill correction.