Preventing Hospital Overcharges

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Hospitals across the country are in search of profit, and experts say they are fleecing patients out of about $10.0 billion every year by overcharging and making bills difficult to understand. The most sinister part is that, while many hospitals honestly make mistakes or 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 doesn’t understand much of the terminology on hospital bills. Unjustified charges can easily be hidden among wording and strange codes. Stories that are increasing in numbers are those that go like this: a hip replacement surgery cost a person $25,000. On the bill was a $130.00 charge for a box of Kleenex, described as a”mucus recovery system.” How about completely irrelevant
charges for newborn blood tests and a baby crib? Other stories have a $0.70 IV costing $90.00.

Many hospitals are innovatively looking for ways to make money, and one of those is overcharging. Since you don’t know which hospitals might resort to such measures, it’s a safe practice 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 specifics within the room. (Bring whatever from home that costs more, such as mucus recovery systems.) Consult 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?

Beforehand, ensure that all healthcare professionals who will treat you will participate in your insurance plan. You need things to do in the boring hospital, so bide your time by keeping a log of all the tests, drugs and doctors you come into contact with. Don’t pay your bill at the hospital; instead, take it home and compare it to the estimates you had beforehand and the log you wrote. Heck, give the bill to your doctor if he or 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 get vague words like “lab” or “miscellaneous” fees.

At the moment, patients are on their own to sort out medical-speak on bills. Don’t pay more than you should! Be careful when in the hospital.

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