The ills of medical
■ Healthy savings
■ The small print
A MAJOR CONCERN for most of us is the soaring who tried to negotiate lower bills with doctors and
cost of health care. Many people find it difficult to hospitals also reported success.
afford the protection they need, with increases in I suggest that if you find yourself facing the
medical insurance premiums alongside cutbacks in prospect of running up high medical or dental bills a
coverage. Various regulations require hospitals to friendly discussion with the appropriate person in
treat patients for all emergency care. But those with- the doctor’s office or hospital may help you lower the
out insurance, or with high-deductible health plans, costs. There are also private companies that will
are often forced to skip important but “non-emer- negotiate such costs and charge affordable fees.
gency” treatments because they can’t afford them, or
find themselves unable to pay medical bills. When in doubt, check it out
So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that entrepre- I’ve found that m any people
neurs in hospitals and health organizations are now take warranties for granted and
finding a moneymaking solution: credit cards exclu- don’t bother to check what is cov-sively for health-care expenses. These cards are for ered before they buy a product.
treatment for the uninsured as well as for out-of- That can be an aggravating and
pocket expenses and deductibles for insurance plans, costly mistake!
surgery or care that’s considered elective or “uncov- You have the right to
ered” under an insurance policy. examine the warranty on any
The advantage being pitched to patients is they goods that cost more than
can more easily obtain major procedures and nec- $15 before making the
essary tests when they’re most needed. Meanwhile, purchase. The retailer
the hospitals and providers hope to see fewer mustdisplaythetextof
patients who skip out on their bills and a boost in the warranty near the
immediate profits. product, provide the
The drawback with these charge cards can be text upon request prior
interest rates as high as 23 percent. In contrast, tosaleandplacesigns
patients who correctly set up individual payment in prominent loca-plans directly with providers often pay little or tions in the store or
no interest. department to call
Patient-protection groups and consumer advo- prospective buyers’
cates fear the medical credit cards may do more attention to the avail-financial harm than good. Recent studies show that ability of the warranty.
sizable numbers of low- and middle-income families So, before making
are already strained by rising medical debt. Federal a purchase, make sure
statistics show more than half of all bankruptcies you know what the
currently recorded result from unpaid medical bills. warranty covers and
The exorbitant interest rates on medical credit cards who is responsible for
could easily drive an already struggling person into honoring it to make
debt that he or she may never be able to pay off. sure it fits your needs.
When in doubt,
Drilling down dentists, doctors check it out! C
AM Y CAN TRELL
I was surprised by results from polls reporting
that while few people try to negotiate lower health- David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate.
care costs, many report success when they do try. This His “Fight Back!” commentaries are heard daily on
information comes out of a joint survey released by the Jones Radio Network. For stations and times,
The Wall Street Journal and Harris pollsters. check the radio page at
I PURCHASED two cell
phones and was given a
$200 rebate, in the form
of a credit card, and a
$100 gift card. I neglected
to use the cards, and they
have expired. Not realizing they had expiration
dates, I had planned to
use the money later for
the purchase of a new
phone in two years. The
company told me there
is nothing they can do,
and the offers have
expired. Is this true?
Long Beach, CA
TERRI, yes, it’s true: When
a company offers a rebate
or a giveaway in connec-
tion with a promotion,
there is almost
always a firm
they are entitled
to enforce it.
are not ripping
you off, unless
they did not
expiration date, in
which case you have
grounds to fight back!
If that is the case, you
could file a complaint
against them with the
But usually you will
find the terms of these
promotions very clearly
described on the promo-
tional material (such as
the gift card), in the written
purchase agreement or
service contract, and/or on
signage in the store.
The 2005 poll shows that patients who engage in © 2006 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
discussions about such costs are more likely to feel
that they have been successful in getting a lower price
for health-related products and services than patients Do you have a question for David?
reportedly did in 2002. Just log on to
www.fightback.com and “Ask David.” He will personally respond to
For example, about 64 percent of those who your problem if you follow the instructions printed on his Web site. (Costco members
tried to negotiate a bill with their dentist said they receive a rebate off the normal fee.) Questions and answers of the greatest interest
were successful, compared with 47 percent who were to Costco members will be used in this column with the permission of the contribu-
successful three years ago. A majority of U.S. adults tor and will be posted on