Make sure you give all your medical bills a thorough examination to avoid paying too much.

3 minute read

Did you know that up to 80% of medical bills contain at least one error? Overbilling patients is likely unintentional on the part of your doctor’s billing office, the hospital where you received care or another health care provider. It’s just that billing mistakes happen easily when dealing with large numbers of  patients, everchanging medical codes, payments crossed in the mail and health insurance companies.

So, how can you make sure you’re not billed for a service you never received or for a procedure that should be covered by your health insurance? Fortunately, with a little time and effort, it’s easier to check your medical bills for accuracy than you might think. And that time is well spent, potentially saving you hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars due to medical billing errors.

Below are five steps to take to make sure that you really owe the amount due on medical bills

Review the itemized bill

Never pay a medical bill that doesn’t itemize each charge. For example, the bill might show a charge of $160 for an office visit, another $160 for a biopsy and a separate $160 for a visit to the same doctor on a different date. Also keep in mind that a payment you made for a previously billed charge may not have been recorded until after the new bill with additional charges was sent. Make sure that each item on the itemized bill is one that you actually owe, since medical billing errors are common. If the doctor or hospital sends a bill that isn’t itemized, request that they send you an itemized bill for your review.

Find out: 7 Reasons You May Want to Hire a Medical Billing Advocate

Compare the Explanation of Benefits

Most insurance companies send an explanation of benefits (EOB) after receiving your claim from a hospital, doctor or other healthcare provider. The EOB  may look like a bill and even show an amount owed under “patient responsibility” or a similar term. But don’t pull out your credit or debit card yet,  since the EOB isn’t a bill. The insurance company sends the EOB so that you can understand the bill you’ll receive from your healthcare provider.

The EOB may look intimidating (and boring) at first glance, but it’s actually a simple document to read and understand. Information to verify on the EOB includes the service description, the amount your healthcare provider bills, the medical billing code, the amount your insurance company reimburses and how much you will owe. Wait until you receive the medical bill and compare it to the EOB for accuracy before sending payment. Also, if you receive a medical bill before your health insurance provider sends the EOB, hold off on paying that bill until you receive the EOB to avoid overpayment.

Find out: 8 Strategies for Negotiating with the Hospital Billing Department

Ensure accuracy of medical codes

Make sure that the coding, the numerical and/or alphabetical code used to specify the visit, procedure or other service received, is correct on your EOB and/or the medical bill from the doctor, hospital or other health care provider, since that code tells the billing office how much to bill. Chances are, you won’t know what those codes mean, but you can look them up online to make sure you’re not being billed for a service you didn’t receive.

Find out: 5 Things That can Cause You to Overpay on Medical Bills – and How to Avoid Them

Keep an eye out for duplicate bills

Depending on the nature of the doctor’s visit, hospital stay or procedure, you could have medical bills rolling in for months afterward from multiple doctors, pathology labs and other health care providers. With so many different bills, it’s easy to just want to pay them all right away to ease your medical bill headache. However, rushing to pay every medical bill that arrives in the mail could mean paying duplicate bills if you’re not careful.

Keep all medical bills for doctors’ visits, hospital stays and services and related physicians and health care providers in one place, preferably a hardcopy file that you can access easily. Then sort the bills, making you haven’t received duplicate bills for specific dates and services.

Find out: 5 Tips to Help You Start Paying Down Your Medical Bills

Watch out for canceled work

Doctors’ offices are busy places, and if your doctor ordered a shot, vaccine or other procedure and then canceled it for some reason, you could still be billed for the canceled work if the order wasn’t changed in your records. If you see a charge for work that never occurred, call the billing office and explain. Once the billing office person checks with the doctor, they should remove the charge, adjusting the amount owed.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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