How To Protect Yourself Against Hospital Billing Errors


Unfortunately, it is very common for hospitals to make billing errors and the average hospital bill contains $600 worth of erroneous charges. A typical mistake because of a clerical error, would be a $50 electrocardiogram is entered onto your bill at a $500 charge. Since you may not know the typical cost of an EKG, the error goes undetected.

Here are some major mistakes and what to do:

  1. Respiratory therapy. Equipment such as oxygen tanks and breathing masks, is not credited when it is discontinued. Sometimes it is not even removed promptly from the room.
  2. Pharmacy charges. Credit is not given for drugs that were returned, or unused drugs are not returned.
  3. Lab tests. Cancellations of tests are not noted.
  4. Central supply items. Hospital staff or nurses may run out of something and borrow it from another patient. They intend to give credit or return the item, but often they do not get around to it.
  5. Keep track of the most basic things, such as how many times your blood was drawn. A good suggestion would be if you are able to take notes of what happens daily. If you are not able to do so then you should have a family member keep track of everything.
  6. Ask questions: Ask the doctor to be specific about tests. If he orders X-rays, then you should ask what type they are. If he does not answer the question to your satisfaction then ask the nurse. But as of late, doctors have been more willing to involve the patients in their health care.
  7. Insist on an itemized bill, not just a summary of charges.
  8. Check room and board charges. Count the days you were in the hospital and in what kind of room. Are you being charged for a private room, even though you were in a semiprivate room? Some hospitals have different semiprivate rates for two-bed and four-bed rooms. It would be a good idea to understand the prices and check them.
  9. Review the charges for the television rental and the phone in your room.
  10. You should also be just as careful with the doctor bills. These bills are often made out by the doctor’s assistant, who may not be sure of what was done. Most common errors are, charges for services in the doctor’s office, such as a chest X-ray or an injection, that was not actually performed. Charges for routine hospital physician visits on days that the doctor was not in attendance.

These are all things that you can look for on your own and if you are unsure of anything, you need to ask and not let anything slide. If you found any error later, you can file a dispute by writing a letter to hospital management. You can use this sample format from consumer protection site.

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