Managing Medical Care: How to Argue a Medical Bill
Picture this. It’s a beautiful, summer morning. You walk out to the mailbox to gather your mail, and you’re flipping through the stack of envelopes in the sunlight as you walk back towards the house. Surprise! There in between your magazine subscription renewal and that long-anticipated invitation to your granddaughter’s wedding is what appears to be a medical bill from the local hospital. You haven’t been to the hospital in over a month and you thought for sure you paid all of the bills at the time of service. You run through the checklist in your head – the ambulance fee, the hospital visit, the medications you were prescribed, the follow-up appointment – what could be left? You open the envelope and review the document, seeing that it is, in fact, a bill. You also quickly realize that you believe it was sent to you in error. There’s no way you possibly owe that much, or maybe you didn’t even have that service listed on the bil. At moments like these, you’re probably wondering how to argue a medical bill.
This scene may be all too familiar for many seniors who are overwhelmed with multiple visits to the doctor’s office and unexpected trips to the hospital emergency department. It’s important to realize that even top medical professionals are not perfect and that you could be receiving a medical bill that you don’t have to pay. To help you out, we’ve decided to outline four basic steps for how to argue a medical bill.
Four Steps for How to Argue a Medical Bill
Many people pay their medical bills without questioning it, either because they are afraid to confront their physician or because they don’t want an unpaid bill to impact their credit. Others don’t pay their medical bills at all. In fact, as of 2014, 43 million Americans had unpaid medical debt. You definitely don’t want to ignore medical bills, so the best thing to do is to make sure that it’s accurate before paying. The good news is that, in most cases, your doctor doesn’t know what you were charged because they don’t do the billing, so they probably won’t take offense to you questioning it. When it comes to your credit score, medical bills will only hurt your credit score if your doctor sends the bill to an outside collections agency. The most important thing to know when learning how to argue a medical bill is that you absolutely have the right to do so.
1. Keep track of your bills
It is important to have a system of organizing and tracking your medical bills. The better you are at keeping track of all your doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, and what treatments you receive, the easier time you will have in managing your medical care bills. A suggestion for organizing your medical bills could be to keep a calendar of when you had your doctor’s appointment, the date the bill was received and when it is due. Check off each step as it happens, so you know you are on top of it. If you’re tech savvy, you could also set reminders on your cell phone.
2. Call the hospital
Once you realize that you’ve received a bill that you believe to be unnecessary, reach out to the hospital or healthcare facility that billed you. Ask them for a copy of your medical bill that details each charge individually so that it’s broken down for you. Make sure you keep track of who you talk to and at what time every time you reach out. Although the person you talk to may not have the authority to change your bill right away, after a couple phone calls they will likely get in touch with someone who does.
3. Check with your insurance company
Another thing you can do in this process is to check with your insurance company. Make sure that they have paid all of the bills that they are supposed to have paid. Perhaps the bill you are receiving is something that was denied by insurance or maybe something that was supposed to be sent to them but was sent to you by mistake. If the insurance company is denying coverage of a bill, that is typically something to be disputed between the physician and the insurer.
4. Follow-up in writing
The final step for how to argue a medical bill is to follow up in writing. Whether it is sending a follow-up email or a formal medical bill dispute letter, make sure that you are keeping a paper trail to show that you don’t agree with the bill you received. This way, the person you’ve spoken to on the phone can’t deny your attempts to have the bill resolved. There are some specific steps you can follow to writing a medical bill dispute letter, such as:
- Sending it as quickly as possible after you receive the bill
- Explain exactly why you are disputing the medical bill
- Provide supporting documentation or facts to back up your argument
Be prepared for a resolution to take time, but know that there are two possible outcomes if you decide to argue a medical bill – you will have to pay the bill despite your efforts, because it turns out you were wrong, or the hospital will realize that they sent you the bill in error and you won’t have to pay it. Either way, it’s worth your time to make sure you are not paying bills that you don’t have to pay!
Did you find this article to be helpful? If so, also check out our blog highlighting prescription drug plans for seniors, and how to handle denied coverage.