The hell of medical billing

Shopping for the best price and getting billed years later

April 12, 2017 - 3:45 pm

We are all familiar with the high cost of medical care. When it comes to diagnostic tests, it pays to shop around. Good luck trying to get straight answers though.  Recently I had to have a pretty routine imaging test. If you want to save money, your best bet is to go to a stand-alone facility, not one that's billed through a hospital.  I called a bunch of local places.  When asked about costs, either they didn't have someone who could answer the question, or they immediately said 'we go through XYZ hospital'.  If you hear hospital, expect it to cost more.

I called one hospital facility to find out what the cost would be before insurance, and then what my cost would be after insurance.  I was told I'd pay about $200 for the imaging.  An estimate from a stand-alone facility was considerably less with my contribution less than $60.  It pays to look around.  

When you do pay your bill, make sure you save a copy of the receipt.  Even years later I have been billed for something I thought I had paid off.  Last summer we got a call from an imaging place in Lackawanna County.  I owed hundreds of dollars for a test that I received more than 2 years prior.  There's no way we didn't pay that bill.  Going through receipts we found that we did pay for some of the imaging.  However, we were never billed by the facility, only the doctor who read the report.  The facility was going through a change of ownership, so they either forgot to bill us or we got lost in the cracks.  Suffice it to say that we were definitely not happy that they would come knocking so much later.  Of course we still had to pay it.

Just recently I took my son to a doctor's office that I had gone to in the past.  After that visit, I ended up with a late payment notice from the billing company.  This was for a procedure done in 2013!  My husband went through the boxes in the basement and an hour later found the credit card statement, and my bill which I marked as paid all those years ago.  When I went back to that Dr's office for a follow up appointment I was told that I had a bill that was significantly past due. I told her that it was paid.  She told me to contact the billing company with proof of payment.  

A couple of confusing phone calls back and forth ensued. Turns out I paid the doctor's office and they never contacted the billing company.  When I complained that it's possible it's happened to other patients, the billing company rep said it happens 'more than it should'.  In other words, you might end up paying twice if you don't go back and double check.  Frustrating because the onus is on the patient to prove payment.  I believe that it's up to the insurance company or doctor's office to ask for payment in a timely fashion.  No way should you be scrambling years after services are rendered. 

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