Whether your bills are from a doctor, hospital, medical laboratory, or insurance company, it pays to double check everything and read between the lines.

Take a little time to go over your healthcare bills as soon as they arrive, and address any discrepancies immediately. You could save a significant amount of money by avoiding these costly mistakes:

1. Not Thoroughly Reviewing Your Bill. You may be billed for tests and procedures that weren't performed, or services that you never used, such as a bedside phone in the hospital or other "extras." If you were hospitalized and received a "summary bill" that does not identify individual charges, request an itemized invoice. Hospitals are not allowed to charge you for a more detailed invoice.

2. Not Following up When You See a Problem. Sometimes healthcare bills are hard to interpret, especially if unfamiliar medical terms or special billing codes are used. A simple clerical error can result in the wrong billing code, which may add up to a great difference in cost for you. If there is something on your bill that you don't understand, or that doesn't look right, call your healthcare provider's office for an explanation. If you are not satisfied with the response you get, call your insurance company.

3. Paying Too Late—or Too Soon. As with just about all bills, late payments to healthcare providers may incur additional fees. However, if you pay your bill before your insurance company has paid their portion, you could overpay. Your provider may offer a significant discount for timely payment, in full, of your share of the bill. Check the fine print on your invoice or call and ask the billing office to find out if this is the case. If you are disputing an individual charge, pay the rest of the bill in a timely fashion.

4. Ignoring a Bill. If you unexpectedly get billed for unpaid procedures, don't assume your insurance has taken care of it. Make sure your healthcare provider actually billed your insurance company, and that the insurance company received the bill and processed payment, especially if you have more than one type of insurance. It is possible for a provider to bill the wrong insurance company. If you ignore a bill because you think-mistakenly-that your insurance company is handling all the charges, that bill could end up damaging your credit rating.

5. Accepting a Denial. You can and should file an appeal when your insurance company denies a claim. In addition, your health insurance company must explain why your claim was denied and how you can get an independent (external) review of your particular case. There's a good chance a denial that goes out for independent review will be reversed in your favor.

One of the best ways to prevent overpayment due to everything from simple clerical error to downright fraud is to know in advance exactly what is involved in any medical procedure, and how much it will cost. Check cost coverage with your insurance company before you visit a specialist or are admitted into a hospital. That way, there should be very few surprises on your bill and, if there are, you are less likely to miss them. Keep in mind that some financial information you get in advance of a medical procedure may be an estimate.



Consumer Reports. "Getting the Most From Your Health Insurance:
Tips on Going Out of Network, Using a Flexible-Spending Account, and Managing Your Bills." Web. September 2012. http://www.consumerreports.org/health/insurance/health-insurance/make-your-insurance-work-for-you/medical-bills.htm

University of Michigan. "Health Sense-Check Your Bills and Save Receipts." Web. 10 Feb 2012. http://hr.umich.edu/healthsense/manage/manage-bills.html

Silver-Greenberg, Jessica. "How to Fight a Bogus Bill." The Wall Street Journal. Web. 18 Feb 2011.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703312904576146371931841968.html

HealthCare.gov. "Has Your Health Insurer Denied Payment for a Medical Service? You Have a Right to Appeal." Web. 15 June 2012. http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2012/06/appeals06152012a.html