Hospital bill puzzling

My teenage daughter fainted in school and ended up in the emergency room.  I got a notice from the hospital stating that they were sending the bill to our health plan.  The notice showed a charge of $708.  So I’m just waiting to see how much of the bill I owe.  How will I know that the hospital bill is correct?  Will the health plan check the bill?  Should I just pay whatever the plan and the hospital say is my share?  Or should I make sure the bill is correct?

Number Wonder

Dear Number Wonder,

Hospital bills can be quite confusing, indeed.  The health plan will only make sure that the hospital billed the services correctly; the plan will not make sure that your daughter actually received those services.  It is up to you to check that.

You are entitled by law to an itemized bill and a copy of your daughter’s medical chart.  You can compare the two and determine whether the services described in the chart are matched on the bill, and vice versa.  The hospital may have a patient billing advocate or ombudsman who can help you understand the codes.  If the hospital does not have a billing advocate, your health plan’s customer service people can help you.

Some experts estimate that up to 90 percent of hospital bills have errors.  So, good for you for being an active customer!

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.