Medical billing errors can cost your family big—and they're more common than you think. Here's what to look for on your medical bills to prevent overpaying on health care.
What to Do If Your Medical Bill Contains Errors
Go Right to the Source
Address questionable fees with your provider's billing department and your insurer, asking them to double-check the details. Write down the name of the person you spoke to and what you were told. If you're unable to resolve it with your provider, dial things up a notch: Put your concerns in writing and send them to your insurance company; the firm can work with you to file an appeal to dispute the charge. Send a copy of the dispute or appeal letter, along with any documentation you have, to your state's attorney general or the insurance commissioner. (Google "medical billing problem" and the name of your state—that should lead you to the right place.)
Typically you don't have to pay disputed charges until the investigation is complete, but do pay the rest of the bill—that would show that you're not just blowing it off. (You don't want your provider to turn your debt over to a collection agency—which would slam your credit score.) Send a letter with the check, letting your provider know that your insurer is looking into things. Likewise, alert the credit bureaus to the ongoing dispute by sending a letter explaining the details of your claim. Every four weeks, update both parties on the status of your claim, and check your credit reports to make sure that the disputed bill doesn't end up on the report as an unpaid account.
Sources: Kevin Flynn, president of HealthCare Advocates in Philadelphia; Pat Palmer, CEO of Medical Billing Advocates of America in Roanoke, Va.; Stephen T. Parente, professor at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management; Mark Rukavina, principal at Community Health Advisors in Boston; Erin Singleton, chief of mission delivery at the Patient Advocate Foundation in Hampton, Va.