Hospitals across the country are in search of more profits, and experts say that they are fleecing patients out of about $10 billion every year by overcharging them and making bills too difficult to understand. The most sinister part of all this is that while many hospitals honestly make mistakes or have to make bills indecipherable, many others do so deliberately.
A hospital is a different world for all non-medically oriented people. The average consumer has no idea what things cost, and they don’t understand much of the terminology on hospital bills. Unjustified charges can easily be hidden among heavy wording and strange codes.
Stories that are increasing in numbers are those that go like this: A hip-replacement surgery costs a patient $25,000. On the bill was a $130 charge for a box of Kleenex, described as “mucus recovery system.” No joke. Or, how about completely irrelevant charges for newborn blood tests and a baby crib? Another story involves a patient paying $90 for an IV that should have cost 70 cents.
Many hospitals are innovatively looking for ways to make money, and one of those ways is overcharging their patients. Since you don’t know which hospitals might resort to such measures, it’s a safe practice to start taking measures to protect yourself.
It can be daunting, as bills can come in from a surgeon, an anesthesiologist, various labs, the pathologist, and the hospital. But reviewing the bill is crucial, because many things won’t be covered by insurance — not to mention that they could be irrelevant to your treatment.
First off, if you aren’t in an emergency situation, call your insurer to see what they will cover — and pay close attention to the exceptions or exclusions categories. Then make another call, this time to the hospital, and ask what the room will cost and for the specifics associated with the room. (Bring whatever from home that costs more — such as “mucus recovery systems.”)
Also, consult with your family doctor and ask about the rough cost of treatment. Perhaps you can bring your own prescriptions to the hospital to avoid paying for theirs, for example, or cut down your stay time if your doctor can recommend it. In other words, research all of your options.
Beforehand, ensure that all health-care professionals who will be treating you will participate in your insurance plan. You’ll need things to do while in hospital, as it can get dull, so bide your time by keeping a log of all the tests, drugs, and doctors you come into contact with. Also, don’t pay your bill at the hospital; instead take it home and compare it to the estimates you were given beforehand and to the log you wrote.
Heck, you can even give the bill to your doctor if he/she is willing to look at it. Ask the hospital’s billing department and your insurer about any unusual items on the bill. Always ask for an itemized bill, as well, so you don’t lose money on vague words such as “lab” or “miscellaneous fees.”
At the moment, patients are on their own to sort out the confusing medical vernacular on bills. Don’t pay more than you should! Instead, do your homework and be careful when in the hospital.