A while back, after Jack had been in to the emergency room on two successive occasions for stitches, I got a medical bill that genuinely confused me, because I thought I'd already paid it. I called the medical billing number and the customer service rep explained very helpfully the source of the bill (the hospital and the doctor charged separately). She then offered, unprompted, to knock 15% off the bill if I paid it right there on the phone via credit card.
Well, thirty dollars is thirty dollars, so I paid by phone and figured a five minute call that saved me $30 was a good deal. But as soon as I thought about it, the whole thing started to make me a bit angry. After all, I'd just paid a whole bunch of medical bills (we hadn't hit our deductible for the year yet) and I hadn't though to call on them. Could I have got them to knock money off just for paying right away, which is what I was going to do regardless? Was I effectively paying a 15% "didn't bother to call" fee?
So now I find myself calling on every medical bill, asking for an explanation on it, and asking if I can get it reduced if I pay right away. Some places will, some won't. 15% seems to be the maximum. But although it saves money (and thus I feel like I can't avoid it) I find myself experiencing that frustrating feeling one ofter does after negotiating for a car: that if only one had been more clever one could have paid less, and that one was probably cheated somehow or other.