Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

SAVVY SENIOR ; How to Spot and Fix Medical Billing Mistakes

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

SAVVY SENIOR ; How to Spot and Fix Medical Billing Mistakes

Article excerpt

Dear Savvy Senior,

After a recent hospital stay, I have a stack of confusing medical bills at home I need to decipher. I've heard these bills frequently contain mistakes. How do I spot them to ensure I'm not paying more than I need to be? - Cautious Carol

Dear Carol,

Medical billing errors and overcharging is not uncommon. According to the American Medical Association, 7 percent of medical bills in 2013 had errors, and other groups estimate that figure to be much higher. Unfortunately, untangling those mistakes is almost always up to you. Here are some tips and tools that can help.

Check for errors

To help you get a grip on your medical bills and check for errors, you need to familiarize yourself with what your insurance does and doesn't cover. Then you need to carefully review the explanation of benefits from your insurer, and the invoices you receive from your doctor, hospital and/or outpatient facility providers.

These invoices need to be itemized bills detailing the charges for every procedure, test, service and supply you received. If you didn't receive an itemized invoice, request it from your health care providers. And if the invoices contain any confusing billing codes or abbreviations that you don't understand, ask them for an explanation. You can also look up most medical billing codes online by going to any online search engine and typing in "CPT followed by the code number.

Once you receive and decode the invoices, keep your eyes peeled for these mistakes:

* Typos: Incorrect billing codes, a misspelled name or a wrong policy number.

* Double billing: Being charged twice for the same services, drugs or supplies.

* Canceled work: Charging for a test your doctor ordered, then canceled.

* Phantom services: Being charged for services, tests or treatments that were never received.

* Up-coding: Inflated charges for medications and supplies.

* Incorrect length of stay: Most hospitals will charge for the admission day, but not for day of discharge. …

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