Can consumers save money on medical treatments?

Each year, millions of Americans face medical bills of all sizes, but when they get too big, it's very easy to become worried about those costs. However, there may be a little bit that consumers can do here to give themselves a little wiggle room on the final price of treatment, both before and after they get a bill.

Of course, big medical bills often come as a result of an unforeseen medical situation, whether it's a grave illness, injury, or accident, and these documents can often be quite confusing, according to a report from New England Cable News. Anyone who has been to the hospital for an emergency treatment knows that there are a lot of forms to fill out, and often those who aren't familiar with the process may not fully understand what they're signing, especially because of the terms used on these documents.

What can be done?
However, many of these people simply may not know that a lot of what they're signing up for isn't necessarily required, and could end up costing them significantly, the report said. There are actually entire companies and non-profits devoted to helping people identify medical costs that weren't necessary, and helping people avoid having to pay them as a result; some studies show that as many as 4 in 5 medical bills issued by hospitals, physicians, and so on have at least one error, and spotting them can be the difference between paying potentially thousands of dollars more than necessary.

Other ways to save
In addition, people should also try to keep in mind that when they pay for a procedure they can't avoid, but for which they have a bit of time to prepare - like, say, childbirth or an upcoming surgery - there's a little wiggle room here as well, the report said. It might not occur to most people, but many hospitals charge different amounts for the same treatments; for instance, a knee surgery at one hospital may cost $10,000, while at one across town, the same procedure only costs $8,000. In addition, the quality and type of insurance a person has plays a major role in their costs, with longer hospital stays and more expensive treatments likely adding to these complications.

"There's a ton of variation in pricing depending on who your insurance company is, so different insurance companies have negotiated different rates with all the different providers in your area,'' Rebecca Palm, co-founder and chief strategy officer for a startup intended to help consumers save on their medical bills after the fact, told the news station. "In general ... the more complexity there is involved, the more opportunity there probably is for them to save."

Consumers who are able to trim their medical bills in this way may stand to benefit significantly going forward. They could devote the extra savings here to other important financial issues like paying down their outstanding debts or building a savings fund for a rainy day.

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