Disputing a Hospital Bill

sand_puppy
By sand_puppy on Mon, Oct 21, 2013 - 12:22am

I came across a short youtube video that walks a person through the basics of how to contest a hospital bill.  

If you ever face a staggering hospital bill, this might be a good starting place on how to respond.  Unfortunately, Charles Hugh Smith correctly explains that your hospital, physician and pharmacy are a part of a protected cartel!  There are no limits on what they can charge, and in fact, they set their prices at the very highest they think that they can possibly get away with, often 500% higher than their own costs.  Two hospitals within a mile of each other, can offer the same service and charge 2 - 4 fold different prices.  Prices charged are completely arbitrary.

At our hospital, about 1/3 of ER bills are not paid at all.  These are primarily poor people who have nowhere else to go for medical care.

The remainder are paid at a negotiated discount far below the "list price" of the original bill.

The basic strategy here is to learn what Medicare will pay for the service you just received.  Medicare pays a rock bottom price and the hospital actually loses about 5% or so when it cares for Medicare patients!  So the video refers to the CMS (or Medicare price) as the "fair price" and that is not quite right in my thinking.  But the Medicare price is the only widely available standard for what a reasonable price would be, so is an excellent starting place.

Most private insurance will pay 20%-30% over the Medicare price.

The hospital billing procedures are designed to be difficult to understand.  When you request information they will often not respond at all, or will respond with confusing and incomplete information.  I have taken the approach when talking with the billing people: "I would like to start paying on this bill, but first must understand it completely."  Make the initial request in writing so that the bill is clearly "in dispute" so they will not send you to collections while you are negotiating.

Good luck.  Persist.  They would prefer to get something rather than nothing and to write of unpaid parts of your bill as charity.  And don't ignore the bills or it will just be sent to collections.

1 Comment

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2010
Posts: 3936
Fat Sick and Nearly Dead.

I hope you find this video as inspiring as I did.

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