How I almost got taken for thousands in NJ medical bills I didn’t owe (Opinion)
I want to share this story with you because I feel something like this happens way too often to so many of us. And oftentimes, we simply just pay what the statement says and call it a day.
Luckily, my determination wouldn't let me simply accept what the hospitals were saying I owed, and I stayed on them for almost a good year trying to straighten this problem out.
So full disclosure, I have an autoimmune disease that requires medical treatment. Without this treatment, I may not be able to write this very article I'm sharing with you now. Although there were many more aspects to this story, I'll keep it simple and to the point.
Back in the fall of 2019, I underwent a change in my treatment. This change required a day's stay at one of our New Jersey hospitals. The good news, however, is that I would only need this treatment twice a year.
My first treatment was in October 2019, with the next visit occurring in June 2020. Both of these dates are important for what would eventually happen later on.
In the fall of 2020, I receive a notice saying I owe close to $10,000 in medical bills related to the June 2020 date. This seemed extreme to me since my deductible is nowhere near that high, so I followed up with my insurance company to see what was up.
Basically, what the hospital was telling me didn't line up with what I was being told by my insurance or program coverage. Eventually, we uncovered that the hospital never sent the claims properly and was charging me the difference.
So I challenged it, and the hospital put it under review. Eventually, I get word that the June 2020 date was now settled. So we're all good now, right? Not so much.
About two weeks later, I received a collection notice in the mail claiming I owe close to $8,000 to the hospital. Puzzled, I contacted them again.
The invoice was put back into review status, and after some time, it came out of review saying I owed around $5,000. So quite clearly, something was wrong with the process they're using. Still, $5,000 is certainly better than $10,000.
So here's where it gets even trickier. I eventually found out the said amount I owed went back to my October 2019 treatment. This made no sense because I knew for a fact those dates were fine, it was the June 2020 date that was initially the problem.
Fast forward to September of 2021, and it turned out the hospital somehow "shifted" money from the 2019 date of service to settle what was owed for the 2020 date of service.
What's more, I also uncovered when the hospital finally sent the claim for the 2020 date of service to the insurance company, they never accepted the amount the insurance company was providing to cover the services. As a result, instead of using insurance to close the balance on the 2020 date, they simply changed numbers and moved it from October 2019 to June 2020.
Confusing, right? I know, I was confused as well.
Once this mess was finally straightened out, I only owed about $1000, which matched up to my deductible, and the true amount that was my responsibility.
So the moral of the story is this. Don't trust that initial hospital bill, as you never know how much you may be getting overcharged. As I learned from this experience, a simple administrative error could've cost me over $10,000 and a major hit on my credit.
So be careful, and be persistent with any hospital bill you get that seems off. They will do what they can to collect from you if you don't question anything.