A medical secret worth sharing

The origins and inspiration for Cashback Medical. My own personal story with the healthcare system.

As a first blog post, I want to share the inspiration for Cashback Medical. Through experiences with my wife’s two pregnancies, I’ve learned to make medical decisions while balancing financial and emotional factors. Along this journey through each episode of care, I discovered a secret that will benefit medical consumers who want to save cash and protect their hard-earned money.

First, I would like to say to all women that I have great appreciation for what the body is put through during pregnancy, and I would be lying if I said men experience anything comparable in their life. Even as a second-hand witness, I am unable to accurately describe or speak for my wife regarding any of the physical or emotional challenges that come with pregnancy. To me, it’s simply a miracle this is how we all come to existence.

What I can speak to is the financing of a planned pregnancy. Everything from selecting employer sponsored medical insurance, choosing in-network medical providers (OBGYN, delivery hospital, high risk pregnancy specialists, etc.), keeping up with the bills, submitting receipts and maintaining the Health Saving Accounts, all while balancing the emotional aspects of each decision.

One particular “situation” occurred in both pregnancies, and it left me confused to this day. My wife is over 32 and is therefore automatically considered a “high-risk” pregnancy. The OBGYN explained that there is a heightened rate of “still-birth”. Well, these are absolute trigger words to say to a mother and their mere utterance leads to a blanket of emotion and motivation to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully, no questions asked.

Our instructions were to consult Dr. Jane Doe, a high-risk pregnancy specialist, at our earliest convenience. We followed orders, and that next week we received our first consultation accompanied by a high-resolution ultrasound. Dr. Jane Doe concluded everything was fine, but we should continue to diagnose with the high-resolution ultrasounds every two weeks for the remaining duration of the pregnancy.

So, we came back two weeks later, received another high-resolution pregnancy ultrasound. Again, we were told that everything looks fine and baby looks healthy. After two visits and the positive feedback, we felt somewhat relieved, but content nonetheless we were taking all the necessary precautions.

It was not until after our second visit when the medical bills started arriving by mail. To our surprise, each visit to this particular medical facility generated two separate bills, one for the high-risk pregnancy specialist and another from a nearby hospital for “facility charges”. I was shocked that each trip to the specialist was considered an “in-patient” visit.

As finance minister, I called the 1-800 number on the medical bill and explained that the visit did not occur anywhere near the hospital, billing must have made a mistake. The hospital’s finance representative explained the building was owned by the hospital, so the bill was in fact correct. I was furious, it didn’t feel like a hospital, my wife didn’t get gown, or a meal, there were no hospital nurses, or wheelchairs. When I hung up the phone, I decided that I would hold off paying the bill until I head the chance to discuss with my OBGYN who recommended the visit in first place.

At the next regularly scheduled check-up with the OBGYN, I decided I would bring up the facility charges. My wife of course is anti-confrontational and would rather happily pay the extra money than feel uncomfortable asking for a different specialist. I could sense my wife tensing as I began to explain the situation to the OBGYN. The OBGYN seemed caught off guard by the non-typical finance questions and a bit surprised by the facility charges that went along with her recommendation. After succeeding in making everyone feel uncomfortable, I concluded by asking if there was any where else we could go for the high-resolution ultrasounds that is not considered in-patient? The OBGYN relented and made a new recommendation for a high-risk pregnancy specialist that turned out to be located in same exact building as the OBGYN. Great, I though, while my wife rolled her eyes.

I was still unsettled with having to pay the hospital’s facility charges. The facility charge felt made up. So, after I finally received the second visit’s hospital bill, I put both on the corner of my desk where they went unpaid for a few months. Finally, after, baby was delivered, I felt motivated to pay everything off and put all medical bills behind us.

Again, I dialed the 1800 number to speak with a patient financial representative. I could have paid online, but I wanted one more opportunity to speak my mind to another human being. At this point the bills were on the brink of being sent to collections. While I was rehashing why I thought the charges were unjust, the patient financial representative interrupted with a surprising offer. She explained, if I stop talking and pay the bill right now over the phone, she will give me 15% off.

Ding, ding, ding! I felt like I won the lottery, I immediately changed my tone and pulled out the HSA card for payment. After all the saving across both bills was a few hundred dollars. This sounded too good to be true, so I wanted to execute the transaction before she changed her mind.

The experience was an epiphany: you can haggle your medical bill! I wondered, what is the incentive for a provider network to allow discounting. (1) Providing a cash incentive helps hospitals to collect payment faster, and time is money they say. (2) Medical providers want to avoid having to sell your medical debt to collection agencies, and the alternative of providing a cash discount on your medical bill is much more lucrative.

The mission of Cashback Medical is to help all patients and consumers by negotiating cash discounts with provider networks, and I need your help to get it started…

Next time you have a trip to the hospital and after your bill arrives by mail, call the 1800 number listed on the medical bill you receive by mail. When you speak with the patient financial representative, tell them Cashback Medical sent you, and ask for a 25% “lump sum” discount. Be sure to tell them Cashback Medical sent you!

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