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Gems of Consumer Wisdom
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  Question Each Medical Expense  

1.   Unnecessary expenses.  Nine out of ten doctors say they practice "defensive medicine".  For example, some doctors may order unnecessary tests to avoid malpractice lawsuits.  Ask your doctor which parts of a treatment can be reduced, delayed or eliminated without significant risks.  Many hospital stays can be shortened:  oftentimes a family member can often provide sufficiently good care.  If you do stay in a hospital, check your medical bill.

2.   Doctor negotiations.  If a doctor recommends an expensive procedure, keep in mind that about 25% of second opinions recommend a less expensive option.  If the procedure is still deemed necessary, many doctors will negotiate lower prices if you communicate that you're having trouble making ends meet.

3.   Billing errors.  A 1993 study by the General Accounting Office found excessive charges in most hospital bills.  Insist on daily bills so you can discover these excesses early and prevent further charges.

(Next Gem: Tax-Saving Health Care Ideas)

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