When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, receiving a large or unexpected medical bill can be financially devastating. In fact, medical bills are one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy. Don’t go broke trying to pay your medical bills. With a little time and effort, you can slash your bill without making a single payment.

Request an itemized bill

Some patients have been charged or overcharged for services that weren’t provided. By requesting an itemized bill, you can go through the list of services line by line. If you see multiple charges for the same service or any charges that look unfamiliar, call your provider for clarification. This may take some time, so request a hold on your bill to delay the due date until you’re sure that everything on the invoice is correct.

Look for common billing mistakes

Billing mistakes happen more often than you think. A common mistake to look out for is upcoding. Upcoding occurs when you’re charged for a more expensive treatment than what was performed. For example, you may be charged for brand name medication when you were actually given generics. Name misspellings and incorrect policy numbers are also common mistakes. If the patient information doesn’t match what’s on your insurance card, your claim may be denied resulting in a more expensive bill.

Try to negotiate

If you let your healthcare provider know you’re willing to pay your medical bill but can’t afford to pay the full amount, they may be willing to work with you. Try offering to pay a percentage of the bill and see if they’ll clear the unpaid amount.

Ask for discounts

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or inquire about potential discounts.  You may come across some programs that aren’t highly advertised.  For instance, many hospitals offer financial assistance or charity care programs to help patients pay their hospital bills. If you qualify, your bill may be covered or significantly reduced.