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MGMA Leaders Conference 2023: Tips for negotiating with payers


These tips can make your next payer negotiation a bit more of a breeze.

MGMA slide | Courtesy of: MGMA

Courtesy of: MGMA

Negotiating with payers can be a fraught proposition, with insurance companies seemingly willing to say no to whatever proposed increase without even listening to the proposal, but with a bit of planning and the right communication techniques they can be far less painful.

This was the topic of a session Doral Jacobsen, CEO of consulting firm Prosper Beyond, presented at the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Leaders Conference 2023 on Oct. 23, in Nashville, Tenn.

She says that understanding yourself and how you communicate is the foundation of a good payer negotiation. This can be done through any of the popular personality type tests such as Myers-Briggs or Enneagram. Jacobsen says her company uses the DISC tests, which separates people into four quadrants: dominant, influential, steady, and compliant.

“Because if we don't understand how you're wired, and how we're automatically going to react, it's going to be hard for us to become more aware of what's happening on the payer side,” Jacobsen said.

In addition to understanding your own personality, she recommends identifying the personality type of the person you’re negotiating with and adapting the way you communicate with them to better relate which can make negotiations more successful.

Jacobsen also recommended voice training. Specifically being aware of the pace, tone, and inflection in your voice as they convey more than actual words.

Some tips on voice training include:

  • Practicing pacing in front of a mirror
  • Smiling while you speak
  • Using intentional pause to create spaces

She recommends mirroring, like repeating the last few words someone says, when listening to who you’re negotiating with. This creates connection and leads them to reflexively expound on what they just said. Tips on mirroring include:

  • Using it early in a negotiation
  • Repeat mirroring multiple times
  • And pausing after you mirror to allow for it to set

Jacobsen also recommends marking, or making a verbal acknowledgment of the feelings or position of whoever you’re negotiating with. This validates their emotions, builds a connection, and defuses situations and neutralizes negatives. Useful phrases to use in marking include:

  • “It sounds like you…”
  • “It seems as though…”
  • “It looks like…”

She also recommends open ended questions which create opportunities for deep listening, provides the other side with a feeling of power, and gets them to solve your problem.

You can find the rest of our MGMA Leaders Conference 2023 coverage here.

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