Tips for Consumers on Talking Money with Their Doctors

Deborah D. Gordon
October 20, 2020
Deborah D. Gordon


1. Remember cost is on everyone’s mind

There is no shame in wondering or worrying about healthcare costs. Virtually everyone else is wondering or worrying, too. It is becoming the norm to ask about costs, and making your concerns explicit might help you get care you can more easily afford.  

2. Trust that your doctor wants to know

Your doctor may not know that cost is on your mind, and or not want to offend you by assuming it is. So you may have to bring it up. Assume your doctor intends to give you the best care possible, and think about voicing your concerns as a way to help your doctor do that.

3. Don’t assume there is no alternative

It’s not that doctors are withholding cheaper options from you; they may not know about them or may not be considering cost at all. Given a reason to investigate, your doctor may help you find a better option. So speak up.

4. Start with some basic questions

What can I expect to pay for this procedure or medication? If they can’t be specific, ask for a range that’s typical for the care you’re getting. Are there other charges that might come up unexpectedly? What sort of other doctors and providers will be involved, and can you help me determine whether they are in-network for insurance purposes? Don’t forget to ask about any hidden costs, such as facility fees.

5. Remember, you have a say in your own care

You may not always (or ever) feel in control of healthcare situations, especially in an urgent or emergency situation. But you do have power, including over your spending. You deserve healthcare providers who are willing to make sure the financial aspects of your care actually work for you and toward you getting well.

Deborah D. Gordon, a former health insurance executive, is author of The Health Care Consumer’s Manifesto: How to Get the Most for Your Money (Praeger, 2020).

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