For millions of Americans, medical debt creates extremely difficult financial circumstances. Past due medical bills can lead to creditor harassment, wage garnishments, and lower credit ratings.
When a person is diagnosed with cancer or other illness requiring surgery and long-term treatments, the medical bills can be in the thousands of dollars. Although health insurance should cover many expenses, depending on the plan and deductible amount, patients may still have astronomically escalating bills. Millions of Americans experience this exact scenario every year, and this is on top of the emotional and physical hardship that comes with illness or an acute injury.
Everyone should be aware that hospital bills are often rife with errors. It may be possible to lower the costs of erroneous medical bills with quick action. How common are medical billing errors? Statistics collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that 49 percent of Medicare claims contain errors. The Medical Billing Advocates of America argue the error rate is 75 to 80 percent!
Depending on the services and procedures offered, errors can cost patients thousands of dollars, so it is important to understand the information and potential for mistakes contained on hospital bills.
How to Correct the Most Common Medical Billing Errors
Common medical billing errors include incorrect insurance information, duplicate charges for services, listing the wrong procedures or clerical mistakes (such as keystroke errors while entering patient information). Many of these errors can be fixed.
- Phantom or duplicate charges: Phantom charges are when hospitals bill patients for services they did not receive. Duplicate charges occur when patients are billed twice or multiple times for the same procedure. If you opt to request itemized medical bills, it will become easier to spot phantom or duplicate charges. Itemized bills will contain tests, prescribed medications and other procedures performed by doctors during your visit. In the event you are billed twice or for a procedure you did not pay for, it should show up on the itemized bill.
- Incorrect insurance or patient information: In some cases, hospitals will incorrectly input insurance information, such as the insurance ID number or patient name. When listed items do not seem as if they are for the right person, it is possible the hospital screwed up your insurance details. It is also possible the hospital misspelled your name or incorrectly input other personal information. Call up the hospital and double-check to ensure they have correctly recorded your insurance coverage.
- Incorrect dates: If your injury or illness is serious, you may be in the hospital for multiple days. In the event you are billed for extra days when you did not stay overnight, it can impose thousands of extra dollars in hospital bills. When reviewing your bill, make sure the dates are correct.
- Insurance EOB errors: Checking the explanation of benefits (EOB) form sent by your insurance provider can help spot medical billing errors. Information contained on EOBs can include dates and location of service, medical billing codes and charge amounts. If for some reason a specific service was not covered, it would list it on your EOB along with an explanation. Always compare the information contained within your EOB to medical bills received from the hospital or other providers.
- Miscellaneous clerical errors: Typos are commonplace in hospitals, so make sure that you were not overcharged for prescriptions or services. An extra ‘0’ can mean the difference of hundreds of dollars.
What to Do Once You Find Medical Billing Errors
Once you have located errors on your medical bills, it is time to get busy and start making phone calls. Just do not wait too long to report the errors, or it could end up hurting your wallet or credit rating. Calling the hospital billing department (usually listed on the bills) and the insurance company listed on the bills are good places to start. Always write down when and who you spoke with, just in case you need to follow up with that person or reference what he or she told you. Be sure to take comprehensive notes on what was said during calls.
For hospital patients with medical bills that are causing extreme financial hardship, filing for bankruptcy may be an option. Depending on your circumstances, filing for bankruptcy in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 may discharge outstanding medical bills in their entirety.
The Kansas City bankruptcy attorneys at The Sader Law Firm help individuals with excessive medical bills negotiate their debt outside of the bankruptcy courts or file for bankruptcy when the situation warrants.