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Don’t Pay an Unitemized Medical Bill

Do you write blank checks for anything else in your life? Then don’t do it for medical care. As consumers of health care, we deserve to know the cost of medical care before we pay for it.

Many medical providers, especially hospitals, will send us medical bills with a total amount to be paid. The hospital does not provide us with the customer service we deserve – an itemized medical bill listing each medical care item line by line and telling us the cost of each item and what we owe for each item.

For example, a consumer who had four blood work test received a bill for $600. The consumer should have received a bill stating each blood test by name, such as complete blood cell count (CBC) with a cost of $75 and consumer responsibility of $25, for example, and repeat this process for the other three blood tests.

Hospitals have become accustomed to not providing an itemized bill unless the consumer asks for one. This is unacceptable and poor customer service. Pratter therefore recommends the following:

1. Do not pay an unitemized medical bill. This means don't pay a medical bill where you are instructed to write a blank check for the dollar amount shown without a detailed, line by line explanation of what you are paying for.

2. Wait the common six to nine months for the hospital or other medical provider to call you about why you did not pay your medical bill. At that point, you can politely respond, “Oh, I have been waiting for you to call. I need you to provide me with a detailed, itemized medical bill before I can consider paying it. Thank you.”

3. Once you receive an itemized bill in the mail, match it to your insurance Explanation of Benefits (EOB). This is mailed to you by your health insurance company - not the hospital - and will list the medical services billed. 

4. Make certain that the same list of services appears on your medical bill and your EOB. If they match, you owe the amount due. If not, dispute the difference if the amount on your EOB owed is less than that reported on the hospital or other medical provider bill.

It is long overdue that as health care consumers we demand to be treated with respect and not belittled by big hospital corporations telling us to open our wallets and purses without knowing what we pay for.