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Posted on 29. September 2011

Double Check Your Medical Bills

By Trisha Torrey

When your credit card bill arrives each month, you probably look over the charges to be sure they belong there. After all, there's no sense in paying for goods or services you haven't received, right?

Yet, we patients don't seem to do the same when it comes to our medical bills. But -- we should! Reports tell us that as many as eight out of ten medical bills contain errors.

Why aren't we more diligent about reviewing doctor and hospital bills? The main reason is that those of us with insurance or Medicare are a step removed from the payment process. Our medical bills are sent to our insurer first, not to us. After processing, the insurer sends us a statement to review. Most of us glance at the list of services, glaze over at the medical words we don't understand, and marvel at the very high sums. Later, when the doctor's bill arrives, we write a check for the difference, heaving a sigh of relief that we have insurance.

Unfortunately, that difference, the balance we have to pay, is increasing. Higher premiums, co-pays and co-insurances mean the portion of healthcare costs coming directly from our pockets is growing. There's never been a better time to begin reviewing our medical bills.

It doesn't have to be difficult. Here is a simple way to review them.

As you complete your doctor visit, you will be given a computer print-out of all services performed, or a page with numbers called CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) codes which represent services. Right there, before you leave the doctor's office, ask for an explanation of each service by asking what words will represent each CPT code on your insurer's Explanation of Benefits (EOB.) Make notes on your copy. The billing clerk may balk; she's not used to these kinds of questions. But you can be insistent.

When the EOB arrives from your insurance company, compare your notes from the doctor's office to the EOB. You may be comparing descriptive words, or you may be comparing CPT codes. If there are discrepancies, contact the doctor's office first. If they can't explain the differences, then contact your insurance company.

We all need to do our part to keep down the costs of healthcare. Making sure our billing is accurate, and refusing to pay for goods or services we have not received, is a good start.

Reposted with permission.

Trisha Torrey is Every Patient's Advocate, and the author of two books for patients and advocates. Learn more about her at:  www.EveryPatientsAdvocate.com


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