Medical Bills and Arbitrary Costs: Add These Strategies to Your Toolkit

Media, consumer advocates and others talk a lot about how many of us are facing absurdly high costs for medical treatments. We know that these charges range significantly from location to location and that many times you may be hit with the majority of the balance. Not everyone, though, is talking about actual, practical ways to protect yourself from excessive costs when you obtain care at a local doctor’s office, hospital or other facility.

Asking the Right Questions

Almost all of the practical strategies for “consumer cost control” in medical offices focus on getting answers from medical providers. Asking relevant questions before, during and after a visit can help you avoid some of the most ridiculous charges that show up on medical bills.

One tip is to ask for an itemized list of charges. Itemization of a medical bill will show you whether any costs for a particular procedure have been padded or exaggerated, for example, in bills for supplies and related expenses. Some doctors have begun to bill different aspects of consultation separately and this is another area where an itemized bill can come in handy.

Look At the Medical Codes

Medical consultants are now advising to look at the CPT codes that show up on your medical bills. CPT codes represent specific procedures and treatments, and you can use these to help find a fair price online. It is becoming increasingly common for individuals to look for these kinds of “blue book values” for medical procedures when negotiating with a provider. Experts also recommend checking out the government’s reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid to see if your doctor is charging you too much for a specific procedure.

Look for Alternatives

Another way to lower overall medical costs is to decline some of the more expensive and less necessary treatments that your doctor may suggest. Lots of medical advocates tell patients to always apply the “BRAIN” ( benefits, risks, alternatives, intuition, nothing) principle to their questions in the doctor’s office. This involves looking at the pros and cons of procedures, as well as what lower-priced alternatives may be available, as well as checking your intuition or “gut feeling” about a suggested treatment. Then, evaluate the consequence of delaying treatment for a health condition.

One reason that consumer advocates suggest this kind of questioning is that a doctor’s suggested treatments are not always the only course of action for any given health condition, and sometimes, a practical approach can reveal perfectly good alternatives that can come with a much lower price tag.

Look for Discounts and Other Payment Options

Another great tip is to look for payment plans and other options from your local medical providers. Many providers have begun to offer these options to patients. Some patients who are facing high-dollar bills can even qualify for charity, especially if their insurer declined huge portions of their bill. Make sure that you keep all of these strategies handy for dealing with medical bills that threaten to ruin your financial health.

Medical Fraud: A Big Dollar Concern

With reports about identity fraud making waves throughout the news media, it’s especially important for those looking at the American health care industry to consider a specific kind of identity fraud that can be especially expensive for victims. Medical fraud is commonly defined as any kind of identity theft that facilitates the use of insurance or medical information which allows for an unauthorized individual to get access to medical insurance, medical care or other services, or that in some cases, allows for false billing or funneling money directly from the victim to the fraud perpetrator. Learning more about it can help you avoid medical bankruptcies or other problems.

The Numbers on Medical Fraud

Although it may be more obscure than other types of fraud, for instance, credit card fraud, some reports estimate that medical identity theft affects almost two million people in America each year, with an overall monetary impact of over $40 billion. Experts also estimate the costs of medical fraud per victim at over $20,000. That means that this kind of fraud can destroy the budgets of many American consumers or families who become victims of this type of identity theft.

Common Scenarios

Experts suggest that some identity thieves pursue medical fraud in order to get insurance coverage through illegitimate means, while others may be looking to get their hands on prescription drugs that they will sell on the black market. But although these kinds of situations can hit consumers or families out of nowhere, other reports suggest that in many cases of medical fraud, there’s a gray area: the victims of these kinds of fraud may have let their family members misuse their medical information or otherwise been complicit in fraudulent claims or other types of identity theft.

Medical fraud is just one way that the average American family can find itself bogged down in medical debt or otherwise trapped in eternal debt cycles. In order to prevent these kinds of nightmare scenarios, it’s important to safeguard identity information and do regular credit checks and basic financial monitoring. You can also get help from third party medical advocates that understand the health care system and how to fight various kinds of financial challenges to make sure that you and your loved ones are not taken advantage of by a system that often generates extremely high costs. Talking to these types of agencies and organizations can help you gain a better idea of how to prevent medical fraud, unfair denials or bills, or any other financial struggle that could have been avoided through good documentation and vigilance. Get the facts and protect yourself against medical fraud and unfair medical debt for a better financial future.

What Medical Malpractice May Encompass

Generally speaking, the term medical malpractice means negligence caused by health care professionals leading to injuries or the death of a patient. Medical malpractice has no particular method or place in which it strikes. It just happens to anyone, anytime, when they least expect it.

At one time medical malpractice wasn’t as prevalent, or more likely, was not recognized for what it was; thus, it went unreported. It is a situation still present today, as many people don’t realize they have been or are a victim of medical malpractice. It is far too ingrained in society not to question the wisdom of doctors when, in fact, we should always ask questions as well as be our own medical advocates.

This is something not many people know: at the time of the first visit to a physician, the health of the patient is NOT the responsibility of that doctor; however, it becomes the responsibility of the doctor once treatment has commenced. A smart patient needs to keep track of doctor’s appointments, diagnosis, prescriptions and treatments.

So, what types of medical malpractice are there – the most common ones? Malpractice may happen at any time thanks to a delay in treatment, the result of medications prescribed, or even as the result of improper monitoring and/or administration of anesthesia.

In general, the most common forms of medical malpractice are birth injuries and defects, wrongful death, surgical errors, cosmetic surgery errors, breast implant malpractice, dental errors, psychiatric malpractice, and unnecessary surgery. No matter what the malpractice may be, be it a breast cancer misdiagnosis to mismanagement of a heart attack, the patient has the right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit and seek compensation for damages.

A word or two of advice about filing a medical malpractice lawsuit: do not wait or you will miss the statute of limitations. Most states have a two-year limitation, but don’t assume that is the case. Speak to a highly qualified attorney and find out what the statute of limitations says in your state.

If you choose to wait longer than two years, your chances of getting compensation drastically drops, statistically speaking, which isn’t to say you may not get compensation, but the chances of doing so are low. If you think you are a victim of medical malpractice, seek competent legal counsel to obtain justice.