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Haggling for Healthcare

We all bargain for a better price on a car, but did you know you can also play "let's make a deal" with your doctor?

Steven Greibrok tries to save money any way he can. He even asks his doctors for discounts.

“Health care is important but there's other places we would rather spend our money than health care,” says Greibrok.

This father of two says he's saved thousands by haggling for health care. 200 dollars off hearing aids for his daughter, hefty discounts at the dentist, and he once negotiated a better deal with a doctor by opting out of anesthesia during a procedure.

“I said well how much are we talking about saving me? And he said instead of 3300 it will be 1100 and I said I can take a lot of pain,” said Greibrok laughing.

But haggling for healthcare doesn't have to be painful. According to a recent survey by consumer website, angieslist.com, 74 percent of consumers said they got a discount when they asked for one.

But how can you tell if you're getting a fair price?

Jeff Rice says, “A few phone calls can literally save a patient thousands of dollars.”

He runs healthcarebluebook.com, a website devoted to telling consumers what some of the most common medical procedures should cost.

“If you need a common procedure like an MRI or colonoscopy there may be a 300-500% price variation,” said Rice.

We called doctors' offices across the country to see what would happen when we tried to haggle for healthcare.

In New York City, one of our staffers asked about an MRI for her knee.

The price started at 18-hundred dollars, but after haggling, calling around and offering to pay cash she got it down to 600 dollars.

We found the same story when we haggled for mammograms in Seattle, where even the initial price varied substantially.

After a little haggling, nearly all offered lower prices.

In fact, out of the 16 places we called nationwide, only one refused to bargain with us.

Steven Greibrok says talking to his doctors and haggling has not only saved him money, it's led to better health care.

“I've never felt that I’ve compromised anything and maybe I’ve gotten better care out of the education process and out of the conversations,” he said.

Some keys to good haggling for healthcare: shop around, offer to pay cash, and offer to pay up front.

Also, never make your medical decisions based solely on price. Do research and make sure your doctor or medical facility offers high quality care. The doctor you have used for years may be willing to give you a discount.


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