From Rourke: Not every post here has to be about surviving an economic collapse, hurricane, or some other SHTF scenario. Sometimes we want to pass on information on saving money, being frugal, and empowering your dollars. Here is a guest post with that in mind.
In a medical panic, you might race to the hospital for help. There are things to look out for when you go for a visit, however; and you might even consider going someplace else entirely. Here are a few downfalls of hospitals, how you can protect yourself, and why the ER might not be the right place for you.
1. Hospital Staffers are Salespeople; Don’t Let Them Overcharge You
Bank Rate spoke with Nora Johnson, a medical billing advocate. She explained that the majority (as in 90%!) of the hospital bills she’s audited in the past contained insanely high overcharges. We’re talking about how the hospitals charge you hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars for materials that cost them less than one dollar.
Bank Rate provides some expert advice for how you can avoid these outrageous charges. One suggestion is to find out what is covered in room charges. If they charge extra for paper products, bring your own—because the hospital won’t forget these in your bill!
A hospital might tell you you’re required to pay a bill before you leave. Don’t! Also, Bank Rate says that you shouldn’t accept terms like “lab fees” on your bill. Ask for an itemized list of everything that happened while at the hospital, because hospitals in every state are now required to provide one!
2. Hospital Billing Fraud (and the Accidental Boo-Boos)
Maybe the hospital won’t overcharge you; maybe they’ll charge you for things that never even happened. Don’t be fooled: They’re here to help you, but they’re also in the business to make money; and some of them will try to get yours, even if they must do so dishonestly. In fact, it was estimated in 2012 that hospital billing fraud accounted for 3% of health care costs.
To avoid being a part of this 3%, always compare the bill you receive to the paperwork you were given before leaving the hospital. If the treatments and procedures provided don’t match up exactly, then something’s up.
On a similar note, don’t jump to the conclusion that your hospital is trying to scam you if you come across a billing error—mistakes in billing are also quite common. Calmly talk to your hospital as well as your insurance company to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
3. Might Urgent Care be an Option?
There’s another huge problem with hospitals: the wait. Want to know how bad it’s getting? One study, reported by the Chester County Press, found that on average, patients spend over four hours in the ER.
But here’s the thing: The majority of patients visiting ERs across the US also don’t have life-threatening conditions that require emergency care. For example, they walk in with broken bones or the flu. This isn’t to say that these people don’t need medical attention, but urgent care might be a better option.
First of all, the wait could very well be much shorter. Also, the difference in bills is astounding. ERs can leave with you thousands of dollars owed, whereas an urgent care clinic might send you a bill for under $100 for the same exact thing.
The lesson here is simply to explore your options!
If you’re paying close attention to what your hospital is doing and the bills they’re sending, then you won’t have to worry! It’s frustrating, but just take the time to do your homework. And always consider urgent care for what might be ailing you.
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