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Anyone who has received a hospital bill with an intimidating number of zeroes feels like they couldn’t possibly owe that much.
There’s a good chance they don’t.
A new NerdWallet study sifted through hospital data compiled by the Office of the Inspector General and found some alarming patterns when it comes to payment.
Not one of the 34 hospitals examined was fully compliant with Medicare medical billing requirements. Every single hospital made billing errors, and at one hospital, every single audited claim had an error.
What does this mean for the patients? Well, NerdWallet found that a whopping 49% of the Medicare medical claims had errors, leading to as much as 26.4% overpayment from patients.
The hospitals’ errors presumably go undetected because billing is so unclear: 57% of the more than 2,000 consumers surveyed by a NerdWallet-commissioned Harris Poll said they’d been confused by medical bills they’d received.
It’s no wonder that the leading contributor to personal bankruptcy in the US is medical debt.
"At NerdWallet Health, we recommend you always get an itemized bill to see each individual charge so you can then start to ID where there may be errors," NerdWallet General Manager of Health Christina LaMontagne told Next Avenue. Itemized bills list each charge separately, and you can usually call and request one from your doctor.
While it’s unfair to expect consumers to learn the intricacies of the medical billing system, spending even five minutes with your itemized bill could expose basic errors such as duplicate charges or charges for services you didn’t receive. Who knows? Taking a second look could save you money.
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