Aug 16, 2011

80 Percent of Medical Bills Contain Errors -- 20 Percent Don't

Eight out of every ten medical bills (80 percent) have mistakes on them, according to Medical Billing Advocates of America.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

80 Percent of Medical Bills Contain Errors
Money Down the Toilet
The issue, only 20 percent of medical bills are correct.

This means it is more likely that you are holding an incorrect medical bill in your hand, than a correct medical bill.

Problems with medical billing errors drive me crazy. Our friends and relatives complain but they rarely take action. This perplexes me. There is no penalty for challenging a medical bill. On the other hand if you don't it is like flushing your money down a toilet.

I understand why people get frustrated or confused. Did you ever try to read a typical medical bill? The only person that can read a medical bill is a person that is trained to read one.

If you took a 100 question multiple choice test and checked A for every answer, it is likely that you would get 25 percent of the questions correct. I am assuming that you didn't bother to read the questions. You would do better by guessing every question on a multiple choice test than a typical medical billing company can do when sending out medical bills. At least you have an excuse, you weren't trying.

Common medical billing errors include: double billings, fat fingers ($847.00 instead of $84.70), and just plain old exorbitant charges that can be negotiated down.

When someone complains to me about their hospital medical bill I start by telling them -- you are complaining to the wrong person. Then offer this simple advice -- pick up the phone and call whoever is billing you.

Or, you can do nothing.

This is the equivalent of going into your wallet, taking all the money out of your bill fold, and flushing the money down the toilet. Wave to your money as it disappears down the toilet. Feel better? Make you happy?

I learned a long time ago, you can negotiate down the price of any hospital medical bill. To be honest, its the game they play. A hospital medical bill is like negotiating with a painter on the price to paint your home. If you accept the price the painter gives you without negotiating you are making a mistake. All painters will reduce their estimate if you negotiate.

With a hospital medical bill, don't be afraid to pick up the phone and say --I refuse to pay that amount.

Experience tells me that you can get a 20 percent reduction just by opening your mouth -- by being proactive. By the way, being proactive does not mean being mean. Start by remembering this, the person on the other end of the phone is just like you or me -- they are doing a job. So treat them with respect. You can get more with sugar then you can with vinegar.

If you run into a brick wall trying the above then use my favorite word -- Supervisor. You have to get to the person that "can" make a decision. It is rare that this will be the first person you call about your bill. In fact, the medical billing company will say No several times before they finally start negotiating. You should hear the word NO at least three times.

Medical billing companies know and understand that most people will give up when they hear the word NO. They are counting on it. They train their people to say NO.

This usually means you have to say supervisor several times before you get to the right person. My own experience in negotiating bills is that when you finally get to the right person they are nice, professional, and ready to resolve a problem.

The person also understands that you are not taking NO for an answer, and that you might be on the verge of taking a very serious action like hiring a professional medical billing advocate. Now you have the edge you need, no medically billing company wants to deal with a "professional billing advocate". In fact, you might be wise to start mentioning early on that if they are not willing to negotiate the bill with you, you will be hiring a medical billing advocate.

There is a gigantic business that you might be familiar with -- it is called medical billing advocacy. You might be wondering, why is it a gigantic business? Because 80 percent of medical bills are incorrect.

By the way, I wouldn't discourage you from becoming a medical billing advocate. They are producing more and more incorrect medical bills each day as the population ages. Here is the good news, you can do this job from home.

If you decide to hire a medical billing advocate, never pay any money upfront. If the person you contact asks for money upfront, hang up the phone. Don't waste time listening to the sales pitch -- hang up.

A good medical billing advocate will charge an hourly fee based on results, or will charge you a percentage of the amount they save you on your medical bill. There are lots of scam medical billing advocacy companies that will take your money and run. You need to be cautious and take the appropriate steps to identify a reputable company to handle your problem for you.

If you know someone that needs this help send them the link to this article. You should also consider bookmarking this page in case you need the advice in the future.

In the video below, a woman is told her breast cancer operation will cost $5,000. After her breast cancer operation, she received a bill for $12,700. She hired a medical billing advocate who spotted errors that amounted to almost $5,000.

Final bill, $5,800.

Simple errors like keypunch errors (fat fingers), duplicate charges for the same medication, and exorbitant charges that could be negotiated down by as much as 80 percent.

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 4,900 articles with more than 400,100 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.
Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room