How to negotiate your medical bills

Bert Martinez found out five years ago that his chronically ill daughter's medical bills would top $50,000 a year -- an amount the father of five children could not afford.* So Martinez quickly learned the art of negotiation. Soon he was haggling and bartering with doctors, hospitals and other medical providers, often getting reductions of 25% or more off his daughter's and the rest of the family's medical bills.

"About 60% of doctors will give a discount," Martinez says.Sometimes he's able to negotiate a fee upfront working directly with the doctor or the manager of a large practice. Other times, Martinez, who specializes in sales and marketing training, barters for his family's health care needs by offering to streamline the doctor's business or improve the marketing section of their website in exchange for medical care. He's even posted ads on Craigslist offering his service in exchange for specific medical care needs, such as physical therapy

But negotiating upfront is Martinez's preferred method of cutting medical costs. The key to success, he says, is to ask for the decision maker, know what type of financial help you need and how much you can afford to pay upfront or in monthly installments -- then ask for less than you can afford.

Suppose you can afford to pay $100 per month until the bill is paid off -- you should offer to pay $80 per month so you have some financial wiggle room. Always remember, says Martinez, "it's not personal, it's business," and conduct yourself as though you're negotiating a business deal..