May 23, 2007 12:09PM

Advice for Cash‐​Paying Patients: Just Walk up to the Desk and Demand Your 50 Percent Discount

When I received an MRI on my knee back in October, I knew I wasn’t going to hit my health savings account (HSA) plan’s $2,600 deductible. In other words, I knew I would be paying for the MRI myself, in cash.

The radiologist charged me $1,500. But my PPO negotiated that price all the way down to $1,300.

I wasn’t impressed. An imaging center near my home quoted me a list price of $1,275 for one knee, which they were glad to reduce to $637 for cash‐​paying patients. I mentioned this to the radiologist, and they dropped the price to $1,035.

I still wasn’t impressed. So today, seven months later, the radiologist and I finally settled on a price of $700. That’s 53 percent less than what they originally charged me.

The woman I negotiated with has handled this radiologist’s billing for the last 20 years. She told me that if — God forbid — I ever need another MRI, I should just walk up to the front desk and demand a 50 percent discount.

She described insurance companies as “evil” and “rich,” and said, “I don’t mind making the insurance companies miserable, but we don’t do that to our customers.”