As I mentioned yesterday, I was overcharged when I visited the eye doctor in November. Fortunately, I listened carefully when the doctor explained his pricing and then double-checked the receipt when I got home. Something similar happened just last week after my husband visited the emergency room for stitches in his finger. Those two errors could have cost us $304, but I’m super-vigilant when it comes to making sure my medical bills are properly charged.

Examples of Mistakes in Medical Bills
With the eye doctor, it was a simple error on his assistant’s part. While preparing the bill, she looked up my contacts on a chart and put them down as $195. I was stunned, but I didn’t say anything because this was a new kind of contacts and my doctor had said they were expensive. My doctor matches the pricing of 1-800-Contacts, so I checked the website when I got home. It said they were $75, which is still high, but they really are that good. They’re ProClear’s if anyone’s wondering. I called the office and the assistant double-checked. She’d accidentally charged me for the toric lenses, and promptly credited my card for the error.

Just before Christmas, my husband got a bad cut and went to the emergency room for stitches. Last week we received a statement from our insurance company detailing the charges. It said our share was $284, which is odd, since our co-pay is $100 max. I reviewed the statement further and noticed that the hospital charged the wrong insurance. He’s covered by his employer and mine, but my plan is better for things like this, so we prefer to use that one. We’re not sure why they charged the other insurance because he doesn’t even carry the card with him, but we assume they looked him up in the computer and submitted the bill to the first one they found. Needless to say, he called the hospital to have the correct insurance bills and avoid paying $184 more than we actually owe. Given that they gave him the wrong kind of stitches, which left a scar, and it cost us another $100 to get them removed, it’s the least they can do.

How to Avoid Overpaying Your Medical Bills
Chances are, you’ve encountered several similar instances in your dealings with insurance, doctors, and medical bills. If you’re not careful, you could wind up paying much more than you actually owe. Here’s how you can avoid overpaying:

If a receipt is offered, take it. That way you can compare it to the insurance statements later.

Check your insurance statements. I don’t know if all insurance companies do this, but Blue Cross sends you a statement of your charges, the amount they paid, and how much you owe. If you have a receipt, compare it to the statement. If you see any charges that don’t make sense, especially tests your doctor didn’t order for you, call the insurer or your doctor’s office to get it straightened out. Also compare it to your coverage, because sometimes they do bill the wrong insurance.

Fight any improper charges. If you’ve had a long hospital stay, you’ll see all sorts of odd charges. In this case, you may want to contact a Medical Bill Advocate to make sure the hospital doesn’t sneak in any improper charges. Medical Billing Advocates of America reports this example: “It’s hard to learn how much that $12 “mucus recovery system” was really worth. We saw this on a bill once, and later learned it was a box of tissues that retails for about $2–and it’s not a billable item anyway!” And that’s the cheapest example on their site.

Keep calling until it’s resolved. With the eye doctor, it only took one call to get the contacts error corrected, but it took several calls to get my insurance coverage sorted out. I’m sure I was annoying them by calling every week to check on the progress, but in this case, it was enough to motivate them to resolve it.

Take advantage of secondary insurance. If you have coverage under more than one plan, most doctors will bill both of them. I know someone who avoided paying anything for health care because even the co-pay was covered when both her insurance plans were billed.

If you’re not careful, you could end up spending way too much on health care and health expenses. It takes just a few minutes to double check your medical bills to make sure you’re not overcharged.

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