Understanding a complex hospital bill
Q. I just had a hospital stay and I’m expecting a complicated bill. How can I make sure it’s correct?
— All better now
A. That’s a tough question without one right answer.
Some 80 percent of medical bills have errors, according to the Boston-based health care advocacy group The Access Project.
With the incredible amount of procedures, treatments, medicines and medical personnel that a person endures during a hospital stay, it is nearly impossible for a patient to decipher the ultimate bill, said Steven Gallo, a certified public accountant with U.S. Financial Services in Fairfield.
This is something normally left to your insurance carrier and the hospital to resolve, he said.
“It is more important for you to have a discussion with your doctor and hospital admissions about what costs you will be personally responsible for if any prior to being admitted,” Gallo said.
But because you have already had your procedures, he recommends you do a quick review of the bill, if that is even possible, to at least determine that the procedures, dates performed and the doctors involved are recognizable to you, Gallo said.
Another option is to use a medical billing advocate, also called a patient advocate.
It’s similar to using a tax preparer to do your taxes.
These professionals are experts in deciphering medical bills.
Some of these pros don’t charge upfront, but instead charge a percentage of the savings they find. If they don’t find savings, there is no charge. Others charge an hourly rate for service.
Most hospitals offer an ombudsman, who can help you if you have any disputes.
If you can’t pay, ask your hospital or provider if they have a charities fund for which you may qualify.
And if you don’t yet use a Health Savings Account (HSA), ask your employer about your options. You can save money pre-tax to use for unreimbursed medical expenses.
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for The Star-Ledger and she’s the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Click here to sign up for the NJMoneyHelp.com weekly e-newsletter. Like NJMoneyHelp.com on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.