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The rate that your doctor charges can be negotiable. According to a 2005 Harris Interactive poll, three out of five adults who bargained with their doctor received a discount. If you're paying out of pocket or face a high deductible, call your insurer's customer service number and ask about the rates it pays physicians in your area, or go to www.medicare.gov or www.cms.hhs.gov (under “physician's fee schedule”) to find out how much Medicare reimburses for the procedure you need done. These prices are typically lower than the sticker price set by providers. Then ask your doctor if he'll accept a similar amount.
More and more insurance companies have begun to post rates online for members, though not for every area of the country. In addition, the 30 most common hospital procedures can be found at www.cms.hhs.gov/HealthCareConInit, the website of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.