And We Wonder Why Medical Costs Are So High…

Surprise! Another medical bill arrived in the mail yesterday.

So far one injury has produced 6 separate bills to date: one from the urgent care, one from the emergency room, one from the emergency room physician, one from the radiologist, one from the family doctor we saw as a followup, and one from the lab.

With luck that will be the last of the bills, but I don’t know how folks with ongoing medical expenses handle the flurry of paperwork and keep track of it all.

It’s confusing, to say the least. Each bill contains the original amount, the date of service, a description of the service, the amount of the discount for having insurance, the amount the insurance paid (or didn’t pay, as the case may be), and the balance owed.

The amounts of the charges don’t seem to have any rhyme or reason to them either, although presumably there is a method to the madness.

Just for fun, I called up the hospital to see if I could get a discount if I paid the bill in full immediately. Many retailers will give you 10% off just for asking, so I thought maybe a hospital would be similar.

Wrong.

In order to potentially get a discount, I’d have to apply for AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid program) and be rejected. Then after rejection, they would see if I qualified for a sliding scale. Oh well, it was a thought.

I did come across an interesting site though when searching to see if there were other ways to get discounts. It’s called the American Hospital Directory, and they provide free hospital information.

I looked up the (non-profit) hospital that we went to, and discovered that their revenue is over one billion per year. Their net is about $31 million. I wonder how much the for-profit hospitals are making…

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20 comments

  • I absolutely hate dealing with insurance and medical billing offices. I swear, they are run by monkeys. I hope you’re able to get through all of them and get everything sorted out. I also hope that this new health care plan will lead to some relief in that arena with medical billing.

  • Bas

    Unfortunately, many people believe the high costs of healthcare are because of the pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Compared to the administrative costs, however, they make pennies on the dollar.

  • I hate my insurance, and we pay a ton of money each month for it. We get billed for everything from the hospital. Our insurance takes so long to pay anything, or they demand further explanation from us and the financial threats and phone calls from the hospital start. I can’t count how many times I have to call about the bill and the insurance eventually pays it. However, I am sure that many people just pay these bills when they come, when it is something that should easily be covered by insurance. It is so frustrating.

    Keep in mind, this is with a major insurer, through my husband’s employer. I can’t imagine what it is like when you buy short-term insurance that is known for fighting every claim, stating it was a pre-existing condition.

    • Well, I’m one who just pays the bills when they come, because I know we’re still under the deductible. (And hopefully we don’t hit the deductible.)

  • I have nothing to say…besides I spent a year in the hospital a few years ago when I was 19. To stay on the surgery floor, the bed alone is $3,000 a night….not including IVs, etc. Hospitals are a business…get sick and you’ll figure that out for sure!

    • Lenci, that’s for sure. They bill for everything from Kleenex on. Which I guess makes sense, if they billed at the same rate you could get Kleenex from the grocery store for.

  • ARGH is all I have to say. We received three different bills for a simply abscess surgery. $800 altogether for something that took them 45 minutes and insurance covered $2000-$3000. ARGH!!!

    • It’d be nice if you could get a list up front of all the different bills you will be receiving, and the approximate starting costs of each, at the very least.

  • Jackie, if the hospital that you went to is not in network with your insurance company, you will most likely be able to negotiate a discount (except in your case with their weird rule). if the hospital is in network with your insurance company, though, they’re bound by contract to bill you the amount your insurance company says you must pay to meet your deductible and co-insurance.

  • That annoying JAckie, and I feel your pain. I always get these sneaky bills AFTER I pay my co-pay and insurance. What’s up with that? Screw em. Makes me not want to go back again. Don’t understand why they can’t charge 100% at one go, instead of send me all these follow up bills.

  • Financial Samuri, have you checked your policy? Most policies that I have seen have co-insurance and deductible amounts that the patient is responsible for up to a certain amount out of pocket each year – in addition to the co-pay.

    But if your Explanation of Benefits from your insurance company doesn’t say that you owe a balance, a call should definitely be made to the billing company/hospital/doctor’s office to find out what’s going on – errors can be easily resolved with a friendly call most times.

    • Hi Natalie – I need to check my policy more carefully.

      I don’t understand why there should be ad hoc bills after I pay my co-pay and then fulfill all of my deductible. Something is not right and I will give them a call.

      If they want to take my money, they should take it all up front.

      Sam

  • And the funny thing is that when you think you are done then you end up getting more bills. I got a bill 7 MONTHS later from the hospital after everything had been ‘fully paid’ by me and the insurance company.

    Their claim was that they had billed something lower than they should have so I now had to cough up the rest because the insurance was already done.

    7 months!!!!!!!

  • Ridiculous Lulu! That’s my point! What the heck?

  • Nancy

    And all medical bills need to be thoroughly scrutinized, compared to eob’s, etc. Dr.’s offices, hospitals, labs, medical device companies, etc. make a LOT of mistakes! Over the last 2 years, about 75% to 80% of the bills we’ve received have had mistakes. (All together, would have been over $1,000 extra out of our pockets!) I know a lot of people who just assume they are right and just pay them, so I always tell everybody I know to check their medical bills carefully, and also if they have elderly parents to check theirs too!

    • That’s for sure! And it’s always good to make sure that you haven’t already paid the bill. I just got billed twice for the same thing recently…