8 most common hospital billing errors
Make no mistake about it: Making sure that all the
charges on your hospital bill are justified and reasonable is a
formidable undertaking. But it can be easier if you know what to
Here are the most common areas of overcharges and
errors, with tips on what to do if you find irregularities.
- Duplicate billing: Make sure you haven't been
charged twice for the same service, supplies or medications.
- Number of days in hospital: Check the dates of
your admission and discharge. Were you charged for the discharge
day? Most hospitals will charge for admission day, but not for
day of discharge.
- Incorrect room charges: If you were in a semi-private
room, make sure you're not being charged for a private.
- Operating-room time: It's not uncommon for hospitals
to bill for more OR time than you actually used. Compare the charge
with your anesthesiologist's records.
- Up coding: Hospitals often shift the charge for
a lower-cost service or medication to one that's more costly.
For example, a doctor orders a generic drug, but the patient is
charged for a pricier brand name.
- Keystroke error: A computer operator accidentally
hits the wrong key on a keyboard. It can cost you hundreds of
dollars and result in an incorrect charge for a service you didn't
- Canceled work: Your physician ordered an expensive
test, and then canceled it, but you were charged anyway.
- Services never rendered: Did you get every service,
treatment and medication for which you are being billed? Here's
where your log will come in handy.
If you find errors, contact your provider's
billing office and your insurer. If they are of no help and the
discrepancies are significant, you may want to turn to trained professionals
who will help you analyze the bill and negotiate for you.
"These professionals have sprung up because
there are so many errors," says Bill Mahon of the National
Health Care Anti-Fraud Association. "They are saving people
money, and sometimes it's a lot of money."
Billing Advocates of America is one of them. Based in Salem,
Va., it operates in 18 states and the District of Columbia. These
firms frequently work on a contingency basis, meaning they get paid
a percentage of the amount they save you. But that percentage often
runs as high as 50 percent, so make sure you understand their charges
before you put them to work.
You can find others if you do an Internet search
under "hospital bill review."
You can also get help from the consumer protection
office of your state's