ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
some text
Ellen Phillips

Even though I've discussed medical bills in the past, a friend recently underwent such a horrific experience that I determined this is one of those topics that bear repeating. Huge medical bills or those higher than anticipated can't be shrugged off as a "Can't do anything about it but weep and try to find the funds to pay." (Even if we're Medicare or other health insurance subscribers, deductibles or uncovered elements within the bill can cause cardiac arrest!) Frankly, it's imperative to closely check these statements, especially as the cost of health care continues to skyrocket. Thanks to Bottom Line Personal for helping me to provide in-depth advice.

Always check basic info. Is all the information on the bill correct? Check spelling, DOB, address, and so forth. Those of us who have two policies (in my case Medicare and a supplemental policy) should also have an account number for each plan. Assuming the bill is from a hospital, thoroughly eyeball the admission and discharge dates; if in error, the balance might be exorbitantly more. Does the statement list correctly all physicians and providing institutions as both in-network and listed this way and, finally, be certain pre-authorizations are correct as recorded.

Itemized bills are critical. Most hospitals only send a summary of charges unless the patient tells them otherwise upfront. Medications may only list $5,300 rather than breaking each dose down. (Who has taken a $35 single Tylenol in the past?) It's crucial we contact the hospital billing office – take names, please – and tell the person to send another statement in which each charge is listed separately. Not that anyone should give us grief with this request but, if so, remind the billing person the hospital is mandated by law to make this info available to patients. When the (new) bill arrives, check it carefully; don't take for granted the hospital charges are all correct. Not only are certain ones perhaps in error, but you might dispute that $35 OTC pill.

Understand the bill. Often a hospital statement is confusing with much gobbledy goop medical jargon; not only should we call the provider's billing office for explanation, but also check with the doctor/surgeon to clarify the charge, particularly if something seems amiss. Calling your insurance claims department is an excellent idea, too, and tell the representative you're disputing or questioning a charge; insurance companies employ whole departments for this purpose, as well as for obvious errors, such as listing the patient as male instead of female. These folks will then contact the hospital directly on your behalf to remedy the error(s).

Be a vigilant eyeballer!

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT