Reduce Your Medical & Hospital Bills – Don’t Get Taken!

My first experience with a medical billing error was quite frightening. My son had some health issues which were not too serious, but required him to remain in the hospital for about a week after his birth. Treating his condition meant the possibility of his needing a blood transfusion. As it turned out, he did not require a transfusion, but the bill I received from the hospital about a month after he came home showed a transfusion, which we were being charged for. This, of course, was quite alarming distressing to see. It was absolutely imperative for my son’s health, and my peace of mind, that I find out if the bill was indeed correct or not. After some pressing and investigating, it was eventually confirmed that he had not received a transfusion. But this had not simply been an error in billing; I had been sent a completely wrong bill – someone else’s bill. I wonder whose bill the other party received?

As you will see in the stories below, these types of medical billing errors are not an uncommon occurrence.  If time permits, gathering as much information as possible on the costs before treatment or procedures is always preferred, and often it is possible to pre-negotiate for fixed costs, but perhaps even more critically important is double-checking your bills afterwards, not only for your budget, but for the proper understanding of your health status.

We may not be able to scrutinize for every bandage or cotton ball we are billed for, but not noticing sizeable mistakes can add up to a heavy tab. Here are some tips with experts giving important information and suggestions to help guide you in navigating, managing, questioning, and hopefully reducing your medical bills.

Negotiating Medical Bills and Billing Errors:

  • Negotiating Medical BillsYou’re not alone if you find medical and hospital bills a confusing mess. CBS reporter Wyatt Andrews reports on how it’s an absolute must for everyone to do a little investigating and how it may also save you some money.
  • Reduce Your Medical Costs - Derek Fitteron, CEO of Medical Cost Advocates, discusses the high cost of medical bills and what you need to to know to manage your insurance prices, medical service costs, the importance of reviewing your bill and how to negotiate your medical bills
  • How to Spot Medical Billing Errors - Jody Rohlena, Senior Editor for ShopSmart Magazine, shares how to spot errors on your medical bills.They are more frequent than you might imagine. It’s well worth double checking and could save you a lot of money.

Ask and Shop Around.  There’s a reason that “Ask”  is our all-time top money-saving tip, and that is because it works. As every one of the above videos mention, asking is not only necessary to be certain you have been charged accurately, but it is an invaluable tool for potentially reducing the initial cost of services too. Ask your doctors, pharmacies, hospitals, and any and all service providers if they can beat prices, match prices, or if there is any way they could help you save or receive a discount. They may have free samples to provide, they may have suggestions on creative billing, timing, or they may be able to offer a discount if you pre-pay in cash..there are many more possibilities, but they will not offer this upfront, you must ask.

  • You Can Lower Your Medical Bills - Yes, you can negotiate medical fees.  It never hurts to ask says Angie Hicks, founder of angieslist.com in this interview by Dr. Manny Alvarez on Fox.

Shop Ahead. If you have the time, shopping ahead on prices for medical procedures can be a huge money-saver. There may be a wide variation in the cost of medical procedures from provider to provider, even if their practices are in the same building.  The Healthcare Blue Book is a free consumer guide to help you determine fair prices in your area for healthcare services like surgery, hospital stays, doctor visits, medical tests and much more.

Use a Flexible Spending Account.  If you know in advance approximately how much you typically spend during the year on everyday healthcare needs, this may save you some money. This is an account set up by your employer where you designate how much money from your salary you want to automatically be deposited into this account. The money is placed pre-tax into the account, and is only to be used as reimbursement to yourself for health-related expenses you have incurred. You must submit requests for reimbursement. Ask your employer for a list of which items qualify for reimbursement and which do not. Some items which are covered typically are prescriptions, some drugstore items, eye care such as exams, glasses or contact lenses, dental expenses, nursing care, day care, and some co-pays and deductibles. You MUST use up ALL of the money by the end of the year — any money that is left in the account at the end of the year is forfeited.

Claiming medical deductions on your tax return for yourself and any of your dependents. You may be able to deduct standard medical deductions such as hospital expenses, doctor visits, and health insurance premiums that are not paid pre-tax, but there are many other not so common deductions such as: artificial limbs or teeth, chiropractor fees, hearing aids, Alcoholics Anonymous club meetings, the purchase and care of a guide dog, transportation services to appointments, home modifications for medical reason, sterilization, television or phone equipment for hearing impaired, laboratory fees, and eyeglasses. Because there are very specific guidelines as to exactly which expenses qualify and how much expense you need to incur before you are able to deduct them, we suggest checking with a professional tax preparer to see if you qualify.

  • Healthcare Costs Too High? - Pointers to avoid being taken by unnecessary hospital and healthcare costs from the author of “Fight For Your Money”, David Bach.

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