7. Compare your bill to the medical record. The hospital will copy it for you. By state law, they can charge you no more than $10 plus 75 cents a page. You can also compare the two yourself at the hospital.
8. If an item appears on the bill, but is not mentioned in the medical record, you should not be charged for it, no matter how expensive it is. Hospitals may tell you their staff will compare the bill and medical record. Do it yourself, too, or have a knowledgeable person do it.
9. You may ask your doctor to review the bill for accuracy with you.
10. Keep track of your insurance deductible. Your insurance company may bill you after you've fulfilled your deductible.
11. Make a payment plan while you dispute the bill, to eliminate the possibility of credit action. Decide what part of the bill you do not dispute. Try to arrange payments that do not cause you to pay the part you dispute.
You made a list. Now what?
Make an appointment with the hospital. If you do not know Medicare billing rules, you are at a disadvantage.
If an item is clearly double-billed, inaccurate or not in the medical record, the hospital must remove it from the bill. Otherwise:
If you have a large bill, you may want to contract with a hospital bill auditor. An auditor will eyeball your bill — and medical record, if you have it — and decide if it's worth his or her time to audit. Many auditors charge a percentage — a third to half — of what they save you. (This is a better deal for uninsured people. If you are insured, your insurance company collects most of the savings, and you may have to pay the auditor.).
If you have legal questions:
Call the state Attorney General's Consumer Protection division: (800) 368-8808. Attorneys: Check hospitalmonitor.org and "How Consumer Law Can Help" on The National Consumer Law Center site. General advice to consumers:
1. If you dispute a bill in writing, the hospital must investigate your dispute.
2. Hospitals cannot charge you interest on your bill unless you have signed a contract that includes truth-in-lending disclosures.
3. If you are insured, you must be told in advance if your doctor is not a part of your insurance company's network, so you have the chance to refuse his services if they cost more."The omission of any material fact is a violation of the state consumer protection act," said Jill Miles, deputy attorney general. "The consumer has a right to know if the service is covered or not."
4. If the medical provider makes an untrue statement to compel you to pay a disputed amount, they may be violating the West Virginia Consumer Protection Act. Some providers, for instance, tell consumers the state Health Care Authority sets the prices of specific services and materials. This is not true, according to Sonia Chambers, chairwoman of the HCA.
5. Negotiate small payments while the dispute is being settled. This will remove the possibility of credit action. You can sue to recover, if it comes to that.
6. If you dispute a bill without making payments, the hospital may report the bill to a credit bureau, but they must also tell the bureau this is a disputed bill. If your dispute is documented in writing, send it to the credit bureau and tell them why you believe you do not owe the debt. The bureau must then ask the hospital to justify the debt. If the hospital can't, the credit notation is removed.