High health care costs are the principal reason that the Affordable Care Act was enacted, though it remains to be seen whether it will have any effect at all. What we do know, however, is that medical costs are increasing. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2011, health insurance premiums rose 8% to 9%, substantially outpacing the 2% inflation rate for the rest of the economy.
But are the rising costs on YOUR medical bill legitimate?
It turns out that approximately 80% of medical bills presented by hospitals and other health care providers contain medical billing errors. While some of these medical bill errors might be minor (like being charged twice for a single dose of generic medication), other medical billing mistakes can be outrageously large, like redundant hardware billed but not used in a knee or hip replacement surgery.
Regardless of the amount, medical bill mistakes can be very hard to detect if you are not trained to look for them. So here are a few quick tips to help you spot the obvious problems. The more difficult medical billing errors may require the help of a medical billing expert.
- Were you charged for brand-name medications after specifying generic medications?
- Was your regular doctor office visit listed as “urgent care” at a much higher rate?
- Were you billed for a private hospital room simply because there were no semi-private rooms available?
- Was your in-network doctor billed at out-of-network rates?
- Were you charged twice for the same medication or treatment?
- Are your medical bill charges inflated?
These are among the simplest of mistakes on your medical bill that you can catch, but there are hundreds more, and most of those are very esoteric and hard to find. For example, there are some medical billing codes that are “bundles” which should cover several services and medications for a particular treatment. One common error is that individual items that are part of the bundle are also billed separately.
On the other hand, some medical billing errors are as simple as a misplaced decimal point, resulting in your being billed for $1,000 instead of just $100.
The important thing to know is this: your medical bills probably do have mistakes on them, and you shouldn’t pay a dollar more than you actually owe.
If you are faced with a stack of medical bills and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges, it may seem like a daunting task to try to find the mistakes in each and every doctor bill or hospital bill. It’s certainly worth your while to try, however, even if you don’t look for the billing errors yourself.