Some experts estimate hospitals overcharge their patients up to $10 billion a year, with an average of $1,300 per hospital stay. Others say overcharges make up approximately 5% of hospital bills.
How can you avoid getting stuck with these unnecessary charges? Protect yourself by following these 10 steps:
- If your hospital stay isn’t for an emergency, find out in advance what your medical plan will cover and how much it will pay.
- Call the hospital billing department and ask what you will be charged for the room, and what those charges cover. For example, if tissues aren’t included, bring your own.
- Ask your doctor to estimate your cost of treatment. Also, ask if you can bring your prescriptions from home to avoid paying for medications at the hospital.
- Make sure that everyone who will be treating you—surgeon, anesthesiologist, etc.—participates in your medical plan.
- Keep a log of tests, medications, and treatments.
- When you receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from you medical plan, examine it. It will tell you how much the hospital is charging, what your medical plan will cover, and what you will have to pay.
- Never pay your bill before leaving the hospital—even if you’re told that it’s required.
- When you get your bill, compare it to the log you made, to the EOB, and to the cost estimate you requested from your doctor.
- Don’t accept bills that use terms like “lab fees” or “miscellaneous fees.” Ask for an itemized bill. If necessary, ask for copies of your medical records to see if you received the treatments you’ve been billed for.
- If you don’t understand something on your bill, ask your medical plan or the hospital billing department for an explanation. If necessary, appeal in writing to the hospital administrator or patient ombudsman.
Source: “10 ways to avoid outrageous hospital overcharges,” by Peter Davidson, Bankrate.com.