Cut Your Hospital Bill By Being Skeptical

Thursday, September 4, 2014, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

Medical bills from doctors and hospitals are two of the highest expenditures a family can potentially face in the United States of America, the richest country in the world.

In any economic conditions, there has always been ways and means available to folks to be creative, to have ingenuity and just pure perseverance to reduce their medical bills.

Cut Your Hospital Bill By Being Skeptical

Many more hospitals are no longer non-profit organizations. Their basic strategy is how to make the most money, how to squeeze out the last dollar from your pocket.

So be very skeptical when you hear the hospital personnel that inpatient care is necessary.

Their motto is to make more money first and care for patient later.

That’s one reason they would order more tests and have bigger markups on procedures and services.

Credit card debt is not the only debt Americans carry. Medical debt is carried by many folks some of which could have been avoided.

Talking to a couple of my doctor friends and doing some research, I came up with the following tips to reduce medical bills:

  • Make sure your hospital stay is necessary

    Different studies have shown time and again that only one of every eight hospital admissions – less than 13% – is medically necessary. Only one of every five operations turn out to really make sense. When you are told you should have a certain procedure or test, be appropriately skeptical.

  • Ask the right questions

    The right questions concern not only health but money as well. Often times, the answer that is best for your health is also best for your wallet. Ask your doctor the following questions about any recommended procedure:

    • What are the risks of the procedure?
    • Which hospital do you suggest and why? The reason is that some hospitals are safer but less expensive than others.
    • Can I have this procedure done as an outpatient?
    • Are there any less invasive alternatives to this type of surgery?
  • Always get a second opinion

    An eight-year study done by the Cornell Medical Center found that one out of four second opinions recommends against an operation. Always be sure to ask a lot of questions of your doctors. You are the one who makes the final decision regarding your treatment options.

  • Pick your hospital if you can

    Years ago, no one shopped for a hospital. These days at least 35% do. Clearly, this is the best option only if you have time to shop around before your surgery is absolutely necessary. There are community hospitals still left over in the medical landscape of America. Find one closest to you. Mostly, they are non-profit and are a lot less expensive than for-profit hospitals.

  • Look for the least-expensive options

    Many procedures that used to require overnight hospital stays can now be done on an outpatient basis, which can be up to 50% less expensive than a regular hospital procedure. Never assume that your doctor or surgeon will automatically recommend the cheapest way of treating your medical problem.

  • Resist unnecessary tests

    Always ask your doctor why a hospital test must be done. My research shows that the tests most frequently “over-ordered” are urinalyses, chest X-rays and blood tests.

  • Save on incidentals

    Check to see what the hospital charges for various services before you check in. Be prepared for the charges – $50-$100 – to receive that information. These are hidden charges that you see only when you receive the bill. Many hospitals even charge for processing forms. Always bring your own toiletries and pills – if you are already on the appropriate medications before being admitted.

In a Nutshell
A study done by General Accounting Office (GAO) found over-charges in 99% of all hospital bills. Request a fully itemized bill and review it carefully. Here is what to look for:

  • Duplicate billings – Often for tests
  • Shoddy testing – Don’t pay for unreadable X-rays
  • Unauthorized tests – If you previously specified that you want advance approval
  • Phantom charges – Often for sedatives and other medications that may never have been administered to you
  • Bulk charges – Sometimes you see a broad heading such as “radiology” or “pharmacy.” You can’t possibly know if the total is accurate. Ask for a more detailed breakdown of the charges incurred
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