Consumer Issues

September 21, 2008

Dealing with Medical Bills.

Filed under: consumers — Tomi @ 1:40 pm
Tags: ,

The cost of medical services is often the reason why many people hesitate to go to the hospital. Sometimes situations that could have been prevented by early medical intervention are left unaddressed until they become too advanced to ignore. Everyone should be able to receive medical attention without fear of bankruptcy. Bills received after a visit to the hospital, are often riddled with mistakes and sometimes have frivolous charges included. With insurance it is possible to avoid the payment of frivolous medical charges as the medical insurance often tends to pick them out. Even then, medical billing mistakes still tend to present themselves. Unfortunately, these charges are often paid out by individuals who are paying out of pocket since most out-of-pocket payers would not know which charges are expedient and which are frivolous. Hence most times, a patient paying out-of pocket and not via insurance ends up paying way more than the patient who has insurance. Here are a few tips to use when dealing with medical bills whether you have insurance or not.

· Be organized. Keep all payment receipts, insurance EOBs and file all bills. As with all things this will help in keeping your facts straight in case you need to dispute a bill.

· Always review your bills .There are sometime mistakes that can work in your favor for example a charge that should not have been made. Make sure you are being correctly billed and check the date of service to confirm that you were indeed the patient.

· If you have insurance, make sure you cross reference all medical bills with EOBs received from your insurance company make sure you are not paying twice. Also review EOBs from your health insurance. Sometimes, you might find that you have paid to your doctor, more than what your EOB (explanation of benefits) states as due in a case like this talk to both the doctor and the insurance company with regards to getting a credit.

· Learn to negotiate –

o If you can’t make a payment some hospitals might be willing to forgo some of the payment if you can pay a percentage and some will allow you set up a payment plan so you can stretch it over a period of time and pay as you find convenient.

· Don’t give up. If a collecting agency would not cooperate with you, call the creditor directly and see if you can work out something with them.

· Sometimes you might be billed by a doctor you have not seen. Try to keep a record of who you see when you go in the hospital and ask for information about all lab tests. This way you can easily spot services for which you are billed but did not receive.

· If you receive a bill that you consider fraudulent do not hesitate to dispute it. A friend once received a bill from a walk in ER for treatment despite the fact that she did not see a doctor after a 10 hour wait – her situation was not considered urgent enough to warrant urgent treatment. She disputed it promptly (with facts of course) and never heard from them again

Finally, for those without insurance, I would advise that you acquire some form of insurance. The thing to look out for when getting insurance aside from what is covered under your insurance and what is not is how much your deductible would be. Most of the time even with a high deductible, it is possible that due to the ability of the insurance company to deny the payment of frivolous charges to the hospital, you end up paying less than you would if you had no insurance and were billed directly by the hospital for an out of pocket payment.

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