• Steven Corn

What If Your Hotel Bill Was Like A Hospital Bill

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

Many people are thoroughly confused when they get a detailed bill from a hospital.  How much was that bandage??  Two Tylenol cost $25??  Here's a video that clearly illustrates how idiosyncratic and arbitrary a hospital bill can appear to be:

Healthcare is the only consumer product that we purchase without knowing the cost in advance.  And even if we did know the price of that saline I.V., would we make different decisions about our care?  Maybe that would apply to non-emergent care.  We might opt for a doctor's visit instead of an ER or urgent care facility if we can wait to be seen.  Or we might choose the urgent care versus an ER visit if we had a facility convenient to us.

But in the hospital environment, we have no choice.  We can't ask for a lower-cost I.V. option or to have fewer bandages used.  We trust that all of the treatment and procedures given in a hospital are reasoned and necessary even if they are not.

The best advice that I can give when reviewing a detailed hospital bill is to look for services that were billed more than once or services that you suspect were never rendered.

Why examine your bill if you have insurance?  One word:  co-insurance.  If you owe a portion of your bill (after they reduce it per contractual discounts), then any amount which can be eliminated from the bill will save you on your co-insurance.  Let's say your co-insurance is 20% and you find a $1000 procedure (the contractual rate) that was scheduled but never performed.  Eliminating that charge would save you $200!

In most cases, the hospital won't even send you a detailed bill unless you request one.  Even if you can't find any errors, it is always good to review your bill because it will increase your health care literacy.  This will make finding mistakes easier the next time you have to review a bill.  

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