While I was grateful for my mother's care, I still wound up calling the hospital billing office to question the bill, as my mother had suffered severe cognitive impairment from the stroke and could not do anything herself. I was able to reduce the bill. The doctors, however, stood their ground when I contacted them.
That's why I loved Jane Brody's column in the New York Times Science section on Tuesday, September 14, 2010. It was called "Put Your Hospital Bills Under a Microscope". In the article, Brody talks about scrutinizing her aunt's hospital bill, as I had my mother's. She also gives lots of wise tips about how to hold costs down. She suggests going to the Health Care Blue Book Web site-- http://www.healthcarebluebook.com/
to look up what various hospitals charge for various procedures.
Brody also points out that hospitals and doctors charge insured people less than they charge uninsured people. That's because the hospitals negotiate rates with the insurance companies. The same can apply if you go out of your insurance company's network. You'll get socked with a much larger bill when paying nonnegotiated rates.
The moral of the story is: Do your homework. Read and question all bills. Be your own or your loved one's advocate.
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