Strategies for talking to hospital about errors in bill
April 10, 2021 9:27 AM   Subscribe

I spent a couple of days in the hospital a couple of months ago, and my bill has errors in it. I'm going to have to call to dispute these charges, and I would like to have some strategies or approaches to use that will lead to more likely success. Any suggestions and stories of success or failure would be helpful!

I've spent quite a bit of time going through the record of service during my stay and did a lot of googling of medical abbreviations and billing codes and I'm certain these are errors. It's been quite a bit of self-education! I just want the phone contact(s) to be as frustration-free as possible.
posted by hippybear to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
Not sure if this helps, but when one of my kids went to the emergency room and had lots of expensive tests, I too thought the bill erroneous. Rather than argue line by line, I told the billing person that instead of arguing, I would pay 70 cents on the dollar to settle the bill in full. I ended up agreeing to 75 cents. I did have to pay that amount within 24 hours.
posted by AugustWest at 1:40 PM on April 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

My strategy is to be unceasingly polite, friendly, and confused. Take thorough written notes and write down the names of everyone you speak with. I had some success with using the phrase, ‘I’m so sorry, but I still don’t understand. Could you please try to explain that to me again using different words?’
posted by bq at 4:15 PM on April 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

We had this with my wife's prenatal and childbirth care, although in our case it was probably better characterized as a disagreement between our insurance company and the hospital about what was a reasonable amount to charge.

Honestly, the thing that probably worked the best was being persistent. The whole system feels designed to be as much of a pain in the ass as possible in order to just get you to pay. To the extent that you have the time and ability to sit on hold, have the same conversations repeatedly, etc., you're more likely to succeed. At least with insurance, the person you're on the phone with may be able to pull a string that you didn't know existed.

We also (in a one-party state, and informing the person beforehand) that we were recording phone conversations so we could refer to them later. Don't know how whether that affected things.
posted by dismas at 8:15 PM on April 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

If they say that “that’s the way the hospital coded it” make sure that they follow up on why the hospital did it that way. I have seen very minor in-office procedures coded as surgery with operating room charges.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:32 PM on April 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Also, our hospital was very explicit about the procedure for when a bill would be sent to collections (it was timing based, but the clock could be reset). See if you can figure that out.
posted by dismas at 9:20 AM on April 11, 2021

Response by poster: A bit of an update -- I called the insurance company and talked to someone there for a bit, and they put me on hold and called the hospital, and then looped me in to the call so I could explain the billing discrepancies I'd found to everyone. I'm supposed to hear back in a month, but should call in a week to see if anything has been decided quickly.

Thanks for your advice here. I'll write more if I have more to write. :)
posted by hippybear at 6:14 PM on April 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

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