Watch Those Hospital Bills

by Sharon Powell

When is a $10 teddy bear, not a teddy bear? When it is a $60 "cough support device". Yes, that is turning up on some adult patients' hospital bills. You think that because of all those investigative reporters out there, that hospitals no longer pad bills? Not so. While I'm sure there are some honest hospitals out there, there are still $10 boxes of tissues (mucus recovery systems) and $18 trash bags (gauze collection bags) being put on bills. According to Equifax, the average hospital patient overpays by $1,300. MSNBC ran a wonderful article by Pat Palmer, author of "The Medical Bill Survival Guide", and founder of Medical Billing Advocates of America.

You should always ask for a detailed bill, and should always check it. You also might want to order a copy of the author's book The Medical Bill Survival Guide:What You Need to Know Before You Pay a Dime or check to see if your library has a copy. In the book she lists organizations that will check the bill for you. To get info on people in your area who can help you, you can also go to the web site of Medical Billing Advocates of America at or call them at (540)387-5870. If the company recovers anything for you, most keep 50% or less of the recovered amount. Usually if they recover nothing, they charge nothing. And as a former insurance clerk for a doctor's office, I advise you to always re-file denied claims, or claims that are not paid in full. Ask your company to consider them for additional payment. In the majority of cases I handled, they did end up paying more than the original settlement. Never hurts to ask. POST IT...with your insurance card/papers.

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