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  • Steven Corn

$7000 CAT Scan (What would Einstein and Franklin do about it?)

"It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority"  (Benjamin Franklin)

"The important thing is to never stop questioning.  (Albert Einstein)

This month I received a bill for an ER visit to my local hospital.  The billed charges for the facility (not doctor fees) were $14,876.59 and the amount that I owed was $2082.72! Though I never received an EOB ("explanation of benefits") from Anthem for this, it certainly looked like the insurance company had paid down this bill somehow leaving me with only a measly $2000+ co-insurance amount due.

(Spoiler Alert:  the actual amount that I owed end up being $0.00!)

After recovering from the sticker shock and shot of scotch, I started to think a bit more clearly. Here's what I did:

1)  I called the hospital's billing department and requested a detailed, itemized list of all the charges.  I had to see how a two-hour ER visit ended up costing over $14k considering the fact that we left without needing any treatment or medicine.   
2)  After receiving the itemized bill, I verified that all of the services were actually rendered.  I also noticed that they charged $7000 for a CAT scan (which costs only $550 at our local radiology facility).  They also charged $900 to administer an EKG which took about only 1 minute.  The basic charge for simply stepping into the ER was $2352.  I actually don't find that charge to be so unreasonable. 
3)  Next, I went online to Anthem to find the EOB and see how Anthem had processed this claim since I suspected that something was amiss.  I couldn't find the EOB which is unusual. Anthem's patient portal is pretty good (albeit very, very slow) and it's usually easy to find an EOB. 
4)  So, I called Anthem figuring that maybe the EOB got stuck somewhere and they could look it up.  Guess what?  They couldn't find a claim submitted by the hospital for this DOS at all.    "OK, Anthem, I'll call the billing department at the hospital and see what's what." 
5)  I asked the billing department to explain to me how the $14,876 was paid and reduced so that my co-insurance became $2000.  "I see here that your insurance company is xxxxxx.  Is that right?"  "Huh?  I've heard of that company. My insurance is with Anthem." 

The hospital had never even submitted this claim to Anthem.  Further, it is a complete mystery how the hospital had the correct insurance information to process the doctor's fees but complete bungled their facility bill.  It's also a mystery as to how this unknown insurance company could have discounted or paid anything towards these charges.

I gave them my Anthem information and they will submit the claim.   Once they do, the claim will be paid at 100% because my wife had already reached her annual out of pocket (OOP) maximum before this ER visit.

This means that the $2082.72 bill is going to go down to... $0.00.  Yeah!

Key Takeaways:

1.  Never trust that the amount that a provider says you owe is actually the amount you really owe.  Always read and question every bill.  (See the above quotes from Einstein and Franklin.)
2.  Always read your EOB.  If you don't have it, get it.  Then read it.  If you don't understand it, make your insurance explain it clearly or find someone who can.
3.   Realize that billing mistakes occur every day.  Perhaps your bill is accurate.  But chances are good that a bill that seems too high has mistakes in it.  If it walks like a duck...

P.S. - I am not certain what would have been the amount I owed if my wife had not met her OOP maximum.   I estimate that it would have been about $1000 which is still a sizable savings from the original billed amount.

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