For people with limited mobility, dealing with the healthcare industry is often an unavoidable part of life. Sometimes these dealings are positive and result in helpful treatment or access to mobility-enhancing equipment. At other times, the healthcare industry can just pile on the stress, making things worse. If you are someone facing limited mobility and you constantly find yourself in and out of the hospital, then you may be a victim of overcharging, where healthcare providers charge patients much more than the services they received are worth. Here’s what you need to know about the likelihood of overcharging in American hospitals.
How Healthcare Providers Are Overcharging Patients
Whether you’ve been a victim of the practice or not, we’re all familiar with the idea of overcharging. If you’ve ever been to the grocery store and been charged twice for a single item, then you’ve already experienced overcharging in your daily life. Usually, these things are easy to catch — you may look down at your receipt and notice that you were charged for two bottles of olive oil when you only got one. After that, you’ll point out the mistake to the clerk and, almost all of the time, you’ll be reimbursed right away without any fuss.
That’s all well and good when it’s a few dollars for some groceries, but what about when you’re overcharged by thousands of dollars for medical care? That happened to Marisela Herrera and Luz Sanchez in Florida. They were overcharged $6,404 for a $165 CT scan. Unlike the grocery store, though, the hospital was not so eager to reimburse the two patients for the error.
Herrera and Sanchez took the hospital to court, where they found that they weren’t the only victims of the hospital’s overcharging practices. Research has shown that some hospitals are overcharging by 1,000 percent. That’s like paying $100 for a $10 bottle of olive oil. To make matters worse, overcharging is not limited to a few bad apples here and there. In fact, as many as 80 percent of hospital bills may contain errors, and those are errors that patients are expected to pay for.
Why Does Healthcare Cost So Much?
For many patients who are victims of overcharging, the reasons and motivations behind their erroneous charges are a complete mystery. Doctors are often some of the kindest people out there, so it can be hard to understand how you can have a positive experience with a healthcare provider, only to receive a painfully high bill a few weeks later. There are a number of reasons for high medical bills in American healthcare today. To name a few:
- Hospital administration is costly in the United States. The cost of hospital administration in the U.S. is the highest in the world — over twice that of our northern neighbor, Canada. These costs don’t go into doctor’s pocket nor do they seem to make the experience any better for patients.
- Insurance negotiates deals with hospitals. Insurance providers will usually negotiate with a hospital for a lower price. However, individuals who are uninsured or who have to go to a hospital not covered by their insurance network have no negotiating power, so hospitals are free to increase prices for these patients.
- Mistakes by hospitals. Sometimes hospital staff make an honest mistake and bill you for services that you didn’t receive. For example, this may include tests that were never done or an extra night at the hospital that you never spent. However, the process for identifying and correcting these mistakes is often confusing and costly in its own right, as patients may have to hire a lawyer of their own in order to fight the hospital’s in-house billing experts. On the part of hospitals, better data analysis may help to reduce mistakes and make the billing process more transparent for patients.
How You Can Fight Back Against Overcharging
If you believe that you are being overcharged by your hospital, then the first thing that you should do is ask for an itemized bill. This bill will show exactly how much you were charged for which services. At this point, you can identify any services that you were charged for but never asked for or received. Your hospital should have a procedure for filing complaints about billing errors. Go through this channel first. Hopefully, the hospital will admit their mistake and let you go on your way. However, if they do not, then you may have to retain legal counsel in order to take your fight to court.
For patients who don’t discover these errors or have the means to fight back on their own, an overcharge from a hospital can be life-changing. Being stuck with an incredibly high medical bill that you cannot pay on your own can force you to go into debt. If you are forced down this path, make sure that you’re able to find a personal loan with low monthly payments so that the medical debt doesn’t destroy your finances.
If you have limited mobility, then you can also save money by asking Medicare to cover your wheelchair and applying for tax credits specifically for people with disabilities.
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