This past February, I had not been in a hospital since I gave birth to my daughter 24 years ago. And my plan was to keep it that way, but if you’ve been following my posts or have picked up my book about my recent health challenge, In the Blink of an Eye, you know that the best laid plans often fail and my plan certainly went a different way.
I want to first say I am most grateful that I was able to get to this hospital, that I had the skilled care of the wonderful doctors and nurses who treated me and that I had health insurance. That being said, if you wondered if our health care system is really broken, wonder no more. It is. First of all, I don’t consider it “health” care at all – but “sick” care. But what I really wanted to talk about was hospital charges because it was something I was totally unfamiliar with.
I read that certain hospitals marked up their treatments by 1,000% in some cases! That seemed incredible to me – hard to believe even. However according to one report: “… the combination of a lack of regulation of hospital charges in the United States and no market competition is leading to price-gouging that trickles down to nearly all consumers, whether they have health insurance or not, and plays a role in the rise of overall health spending.”
As someone who had no prior experience with hospital charges and insurance – this was quite an eye-opener. I was in the hospital for 11 days. The total hospital bill was in excess of $165,000.00, and that was excluding the surgeon and anesthesiologist’s bills! From about my 3rd day home recovering, we began receiving EOB’s (Explanation of Benefits) from the insurance company. These explained the charges and what portion, if any, we would have to pay out of pocket. From the very first one my husband questioned a charge, called and had it cleared. However, we got more EOB’s almost daily for few weeks. What I learned is that I had to go over them carefully and call the insurance company immediately to question any charge that didn’t seem right.
One charge was almost $900 for what was termed “education.” Hmm, well I wondered what that meant. So of course I called and actually after several calls they finally were able to explain it was for the dietician who came in to tell me what I should be eating at home while I had the ileostomy. She spent all of 15 minutes with me, gave me printed pages with lists of approved foods. My daughter and I went over the sheets and made shopping lists from those foods I’d need when I returned home. Only problem was, on the day of my release my surgeon told me I was to eat pretty much the opposite way. She said low fiber, very bland foods. He said high fiber. I, of course, did what he said. By the way, when I mentioned this discrepancy to him, he said maybe she meant what I should eat while in the hospital. But since I had no control over that, it obviously was not the case.
When I questioned this charge for information that was diametrically opposed to what my surgeon was telling me to do, I got double talk about the dietician using established information and that it was still considered correct even though the surgeon’s instructions were the complete opposite. They would not rescind that charge so I filed a grievance. I had to learn what my rights were and I believe we all need to do this.
What I want to share about this part of my experience is this – read every EOB and every bill very carefully and question absolutely anything that doesn’t look right. All they can do is say no to you, but it’s your responsibility to question it. I’ve called and questioned numerous charges and was told they were a mistake and we never had to pay. I wonder how many people simply accept whatever they receive as being correct and just pay it without question?
Does this information about hospital charges surprise you?
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