How to Negotiate for a Healthy Lifestyle


Your personal trainer

  • Ask about a prepayment discount. Some trainers will reduce their per-session fee if you pay for several sessions up front.
  • Switch to an in-house trainer at your gym. Theyre typically less expensive than a private trainer.
  • Try group training, where several people chip in to pay the trainers fee; it can reduce your price to nearly half.
  • Cut out any cardio you do with a personal trainer. You can do that on your own without his or her supervision.

Your doctor

  • Ask your doctor or dentist to reduce your bill. It cant hurt, especially if the fee has gone up from last year, says Lee Weinstein, DDS, of Scottsdale, Arizona. Simply say, “In light of the current economic situation, Im not able to pay more than what I paid last year.”
  • Broach the subject of discounts or reduced fees before any work is done.
  • Explain your circumstances. Saying, “I really cant afford to pay this right now. Is there any way we can work something out?” can go a long way toward lowering a proposed bill for services, Dr. Weinstein says: “It never hurts to ask. Most people never do.”
  • See if your doctor will accept the amount paid by your insurance as payment in full, without any extra from you.
  • Push for a no-interest payment plan to reduce the impact of a larger bill, if having the fee reduced appears impossible.
  • Work out a deal. Andrea King Colliers derma­tologist in Lansing, Michigan, has occasionally given her a 20% professional-courtesy discount on procedures not covered by her insurance as thanks for Collier having referred new patients his way.
  • Other concessions: Offer to pay cash, pay up-front, or visit at non-peak hours.

The hospital

  • Take a close look at your hospital or medical bill. If its significantly more than you expected, review each charge; errors are common, from transposed coding numbers to double charges. You can also compare what youve been billed to average amounts paid for health-care services at the Healthcare Blue Books free Web site ( Armed with more information, contact the hospital to request a credit.
  • Consider a professional insurance negotiator for claims of more than $200. INSNET LLC, for example, has a 70% success rate in negotiating bills that average $1,400 to $1,500 down by around 20%. You pay 35% of your savings (28% if you identify yourself as a Health reader) as their fee. And if they cant save you any money, theres no charge, company president Jack Gillis says.

The gym

  • Find out about any upcoming promotions. Most gyms and fitness facilities offer promotional periods when the joining fee is waived or the monthly fee is discounted. Or head to the gyms Web site to research special offers. Curves, for example, runs frequent national promotions, such as “Join now and get 50% off and 30 days on us.”
  • Wait for off-peak. Spring and summer are great times to join a gym because, as attendance declines during warmer weather, managers may be more willing to negotiate the fee. If you join at the right time, you can save yourself hundreds or thousands of dollars each year.
  • Ask about paying-as-you-go, rather than signing a long-term contract. This will save you money if you decide to slack off or go on vacation later in the year. Or request the ability to freeze your membership during the summer, when youre less likely to be around to use it, and resume paying in the fall. Its all about timing.