Take a look at your next medical bill. Most show a breakdown of the prices the hospital charges for services alongside the "negotiated prices" that your insurance company agrees to pay. That's right: By having health insurance, you hire someone to do your haggling for you.
But that doesn't mean you can't do it yourself. Like shopping for a pair of tires, you can comparison shop for medical care. Before scheduling a procedure, check sites like HealthCareBlueBook.com to see the going rate. Then (and this is the step medical consumers so frequently forget is possible), ask your provider what they charge. If it seems high, shop around.
Remember: Due to the expected haggling of insurance companies, hospitals are used to receiving a final amount that's much lower than the quoted price. Open your bidding very low. This also means that in hospital haggling, cash is your friend. Offering to pay cash up front not only removes the hospital's paperwork headache, but also locks in a price. When CBS News tried to bargain with 16 healthcare providers nationwide, only one refused to play ball, and bargains included reducing a knee MRI from $1,800 to $600 and cutting the cost of a mammogram by 60 percent.
Read on for links to more great tips on haggling and negotiation.