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Medical Bills - Are Yours Correct?

Healthcare is a good thing. It is there when you need it most, can save your life, and is certainly one of the best things that Western society provides. If there is an unfortunate to healthcare, it is that money is involved. Lots of money. But the very nature of the healthcare business, that is, to take care of us when our health is in jeopardy, makes us forget the money aspect. "The insurance company or hospital will take care of the bill," is the common thought, and in a perfect world, it should be. Sadly, it is not a perfect world. A recent survey by Consumers Report revealed that many patients were finding themselves overbilled - and in debt - because of errors which charged them for procedures they did not receive!

The Study Says

For the Consumers Report study, 21,000 readers were surveyed as to whether they were satisfied (or not) with a recent hospital stay. Of the total survey group, a full 11,000 of these patients claimed that they had seen and noted the details of their itemized hospital bill. Within this group, an unfortunately high five percent discovered that their medical bills contained serious errors.

The worst fact about this point is that the people who encountered the most errors were also the people who paid more out of pocket for their healthcare. In fact, people who paid more than $2000 in costs were twice as likely as others to be billed incorrectly. Additionally, the hospital "charge" environment is a highly inflated area, so as an example, if a syringe costs you $50, you can just imagine how quickly your bill can get out of control.

High medical bills are a source of frustration for many of our clients, and can be very damaging to your credit. But there are defenses. A savvy patient knows what to look for, and gets the additional protection that knowledge provides. Here are some examples you should look for when next you receive a medical bill.

Some Common (and Expensive) Medical Bill Errors Upcoding - This is the term for charging a patient for a procedure which is more expensive than the one they actually received. This is unfortunately not as uncommon as you think, and does often cost people thousands more than it should.

Charging for Extra Operating Room or Cancelled Work - You should know that operating room time is charged by the hour - make sure you're not overbilled. As well, cancelled operations do sometimes get charged for! Watch your bills to ensure this does not happened.

Charge Un-Bundling - More reputable hospitals will typically "bundle" charges together to create a lower overall cost. This is an effect similar to purchasing groceries in bulk - buy as a "package" and costs go down, buy separately, and costs go up. Ensure that as many of your charges are bundled as possible.

Some Good Ways To Spot Medical Overbilling

There are a few excellent ways to ensure your hospital stays accountable to you. The first, and best one, is to keep records. If you are in hospital for more than one day, this is likely an easy thing, as you may be have lots of rest time on your hands. Keeping track of what procedures you received and what medications you were given is key; later you can compare your records with the bill you received. Obviously, when reviewing your bill, you should also watch for some of the errors noted above.

Insurance Notes

When people are insured, they tend to "leave things to the experts", and virtually ignore their medical bills. This is a bad thing. Remember, that the more your hospital bill is, the more your premiums are raised on a year to year basis. So comparing your insurance statement with the hospital bill is critical - each penny you save for your insurance company will likely be one less future penny you will be paying for future premiums. Another thing you should be aware of is that not all procedures are covered by all plans. Make sure you are covered as much as possible, and you will avoid medical bill debt.

Buyer Beware

The sad point about medical overbilling is that we put our trust, and our lives, in the hands of healthcare organizations, and often they return the favor by overcharging. Certainly we are not trying to say that this is a willful exercise, or some sort of conspiracy, but mistakes do happen. And when they do, it can be a horrible thing for your credit history. Fortunately, you can now be prepared and alert to typical overcharging. And remember, if your hospital's billing department disputes your claims, you can always contact your state Attorney General's consumer protection office.

Having issues with credit card or medical bill debt? Contact us here for a free debt consultation. We may be able to provide debt help.

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