Medical centers in Arizona and other parts of the country frequently send patients bills with mistakes such as charges for diagnostic tests not performed or double billing for procedures. In a 2013 study of hospital audits, a consumer finance website found that almost 49 percent of bills sent to Medicare contained errors. Some facilities audited had an error rate of 80 percent.
Billing errors affect patients more than ever because of the structure of insurance plans. Now that many patients have to pay thousands of dollars before their deductible limits are reached, medical errors could impact their ability to pay other bills. A report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that medical bills are the most common form of delinquency on credit reports. Approximately one-fifth of credit reports contain unpaid medical bills. Patients are often hounded by collection agencies even while they are trying to dispute charges on their bills.
Consumers can be more proactive by trying to better understand their hospital bills. By finding out more about the codes used for different charges, reading through medical invoices closely for any obvious errors and by using online medical pricing tools, they may be better able to spot errors when they occur.
For many individuals, mounting medical bills can become an extreme financial challenge. Those with these types of unmanageable financial obligations may want to consult with a bankruptcy attorney in order to determine what type of debt relief alternatives may be available. One such method could be Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which, if successfully completed, could result in the discharge of all or a portion of certain unsecured debt.
Source Time, "The Danger Lurking in Your Medical Bills," Katherine Hobson, April 21, 2015.