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					Handbook
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Save at the                                                            Free $$$ advice
supermarket
                                                                       Q& a WItH DavID BaCH


                                                                       I’ve got a huge medical bill and can’t
Dreaming up family dinners is always a challenge, but                  afford to pay it. What can I do?
it gets even tougher when money’s tight. Here, teri
Gault, coauthor of Shop Smart, Save More, offers tips                  your problem is not uncommon; each year some
to help you get the most bang for your grocery buck.                   700,000 families are forced into bankruptcy because
                                                                       of health-care costs, while another 80 million or so
■ Clip CouponS.                      Wal-mart, tend to be cheaper      americans struggle with medical bills they simply
“there’s an average of $350          than at traditional super-        can’t afford to pay.
in savings in the paper each         markets, but I’ve found that         First, check your insurance situation. If you have
week,” says Gault. But don’t         sale prices dip much lower at                          coverage and your claim has been
stop there: Coupons are also         supermarkets, especially since                         denied, appeal it quickly. (refer to
available online at sites like       they’re more likely to have                            your plan document for details on
everydaysaver.com and                frequent sales and double                              how to make an appeal.) But whether
smartsource.com. and be sure         coupons,” explains Gault.                              or not you’re insured, if you can’t
to ask the customer-service                                                                 afford to pay, you need to show the
desk at your store if they have      ■ StoCkpile. “take                                     hospital or doctor that you are making
coupon booklets—bundles              advantage of sales to buy                              a good-faith effort to handle your
of coupons distributed to the        what you need before you                               obligation—so don’t ignore the bills.
store by food manufacturers.         need it,” suggests Gault.         redbook Love         tell the billing office that you’d like
also, call or email the manu-        stock up on nonperishables        Network expert       to speak to someone regarding a
                                                                       David Bach is
facturers of your favorite           such as pasta, cereal, and        the author of        payment plan, and request that the
products to request coupons,         canned goods, for example,        eight finance        status of your account be changed
                                                                       books, including
suggests Gault.                      when they’re on sale. then                             to “pending” from “unpaid,” which
                                                                       Fight for Your
                                     you’ll have to pay full price     Money, which hits    for the time being will keep your
■ StaCk up your                      only for fresh foods like dairy   stores March 3.      bills from getting turned over to a
                                                                       Visit his website,
SavingS. Find out if your            and produce.                      finishrich.com.      collection agency.
store has a double-coupon                                                                      next, negotiate a discount. remem-
policy and when it’s in effect.      ■ Make the MoSt of                ber that medicare and the big insurance companies get
then match your coupons to           MarkdownS. “meat and              charged much less than you do for the same procedures
the store’s advertised specials      bakery items are almost           and services, so don’t pay sticker price! and don’t give up
(found in the weekly circular).      always marked down right          at the first “no” you hear or limit your bargaining to the
thegrocerygame.com offers a          before their sell-by date,”       clerk in the billing office. ask to speak to a supervisor, or
service that does much of the        explains Gault. For tonight’s     call to set up a face-to-face meeting with the manager of
legwork for you—for a small          dinner, ask an employee           credit and collections, the manager of patient accounts,
fee, the site will send you a list   what time of day perishables      or even the hospital’s chief financial officer. once you
of sales, specials, and available    are marked down (usually          get a hold of the supervisor, don’t simply accept the first
coupons in your area.                late afternoon). “and for         discount you’ve offered; continue to negotiate until you
                                     maximum savings, look for         agree on a payment plan that you know you can stick to.
■ reConSider one-                    items that are on advertised      tell them that you want to pay your bill and then suggest
Stop Shopping. “regular              sale as well as close to their    a specific amount that you feel you can afford each
prices of groceries at a super-      sell-by date,” suggests Gault.    month. and no matter what arrangement you work out
center, such as target or            —Anna Davies                      with the hospital, make sure you ask your contact to send
                                                                                                                                       From top : Courtesy oF s uB jeCt, alamy.




                                                                       you the agreement in writing.
                                                                          also, ask the billing office for copies of the hospital’s
                                                                       financial-assistance and charity-care policies to find out
                                                                       if you are eligible for financial relief. Don’t assume you
                                                                       won’t qualify—the income ceilings for charity care can
                                                                       range as high as 400 percent above federal poverty
                                                                       income guidelines.

                                                                             have a money question for david? email him at
                                                                             moneysmarts@redbookmag.com.



120        FEBRUARY 2009     www.redbookmag.com

				
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