Most consumers don't know that they can negotiate their medical bills, and that leaves them at quite a financial disadvantage. Insurance companies negotiate prices all the time, and savvy consumers should too. It's not uncommon for an insurance company to negotiate a price for a procedure that is one-half or less of the stated cost from a hospital or doctor.

What's the key? Well the first step is having the guts to ask for a discount. It may seem strange if you've never done it before, but medical care providers are expecting it. Experts say it's easy to get a 30% discount if you just ask, and maybe even more if you bargain well.

One other key to saving money on your medical costs is asking lots of questions. You should talk with your physician about lower cost alternatives, such as a generic prescription or the ability to do outpatient surgery instead of traditional hospitalization.

It's popular to complain about the high cost of health care, but consumers need to become more proactive if they want to see lower costs. That will involve more preventative health care, and will rely heavily on seeking out the most economical options for treatment. Until consumers become more savvy and more cost-conscious, health care costs will likely continue to rise quickly.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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