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Examine Hospital Bills Closely; Errors are Common


Even the briefest of hospital stays can result in bills just big enough to tilt a person already precariously balancing their finances over the edge and into a long-term financial abyss. The problem with being able to afford medical care is enough to make many Americans wait until circumstances become dire before heading to the emergency room. Even the well-insured become cautious about co-pays and premium increases.

For college student Samantha Palmer, a one-day lapse in insurance coverage led to a medical debt hassle requiring legal assistance. In the midst of switching medical insurance providers, Palmer found herself suddenly in pain on the one day she was without insurance. Rushed to the hospital, she was diagnosed with a sudden onset of colitis, an inflammation of the colon.

After six hours in the hospital, she left with a bill that on average, charged her more than $1,000 per hour. When her parents saw the $6,662 colitis treatment invoice, they felt a little inflammation in that region as well. "The bill came and I went nuts," said Samantha's father Glen.

An in-depth examination of the bill found a number of red flags and questionable charges worthy of dispute. So the Palmers contacted Medical Cost Advocate, an organization that specializes in scrutinizing hospital bills for further verification of their suspicions.

The group is in business for the very purpose of helping people understand why hospitals charge so much and to sometimes show that billing errors are often the cause of people over-paying by thousands.

In a recent speech, the President recently called out the medical community's reputation for administrative failures and poorly-managed facilities. In Los Angeles, some hospitals are going to begin experimenting with lump-sum pricing because of the ongoing discrepancies in how much certain procedures and processes cost from hospital to hospital.

Starting in August, many of the most reputable medical facilities in southern California are going to try the new billing methods, which, if successful, may offer a glimpse into the future of medical spending.

In the meantime, there are number of costly items to which special attention should be paid when the bill arrives. Namely:

  • Repetitive entries for the same procedure, like lab work. In many cases, these may be necessary if tests are inconclusive but sometimes the presence of redundant items could simply be a software error.
  • Miscellaneous charges. The vaguely-titled line items could be simply be a collection of very minor items that could have been unnecessary, mistakes in procedure that needed to be done over or add-ons the hospital may be trying to hide. In the case of Samantha Palmer, this category accounted for the use of a television and printing her paperwork.
  • Non-itemized Emergency room charges. Even if your condition only required use of a single machine within the ER department, sometimes hospitals will charge for use of the entire facility, as if its doctors were assigned to you for an extended stay.

Medical bill support organizations can help you understand your bill and negotiate settlements for items that may have been found to be excessive or have avenues for reduction.

The fact that a separate industry exists to help the sick understand their medical bills should be all the evidence needed that major change is critical to reducing the tremendous amount of medical debt plaguing our country.

If you're stuck footing the bills that your insurance won't pay, consider filing for bankruptcy. A bankruptcy will get rid of your unsecured debt, and put you and your family back in control. In North Carolina, call the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt for your free initial debt consultation. +1-919-646-2654

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