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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: justme on April 22, 2015, 11:30:39 PM

Title: Fighting hospital bill..?
Post by: justme on April 22, 2015, 11:30:39 PM
I've been reading MMM for several months and have taken some steps (and will take more!) toward FI and will be back for more advice on that later. 

However, I've run into a problem that I need help with now.  In January, I collapsed at work with heart racing, difficulty breathing, etc. (I work in a hospital lab), and my supervisor took me to the Emergency Room instead of the urgent care that I requested.  She said that it was heart stuff and that necessitated the ER and I was so out of it that I couldn't/didn't insist.

Long story short, they did nothing for me and I suffered for two more weeks, barely able to walk, until I happened to go to the chiropractor who said my rib was out of place (mimicking heart issues), popped it back into place, I walked out normally for the first time in three weeks, and have been fine ever since (I'm fairly healthy otherwise).  I was there for six hours, waiting to be seen by a doctor for almost four.  They literally put my IV in five minutes before the doctor came back and discharged me.

Of course, the hospital want its money: $1853.30.  Do I just pay and call it an expensive lesson or can I fight to lower my bill?  If I can fight, what are some specific things that y'all suggest?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.
Title: Re: Fighting hospital bill..?
Post by: mxt0133 on April 23, 2015, 01:08:10 AM
If you have insurance then you are going to have an uphill battle.  Ask them for a detailed statement and ask for a review on the charges.  If they did nothing other than the IV you might have a case and have them lower it.

If you don't have insurance then tell them that you can pay cash but not the full amount and try to get them to lower it.

But yeah at least you didn't call for an ambulance, that would have cost you another grand or so.
Title: Re: Fighting hospital bill..?
Post by: PhotoBrandon on April 23, 2015, 02:38:57 AM
My wife went through something very similar recently.  $1400 after insurance ($4k before...) for 5 hours in the ER, 10 minutes of a doctors time and an ultrasound and sent home with more or less "Take two Tylenol and call me in the morning but we'll bill you $200 for the phone call".

The hospital wasn't willing to reduce the bill because insurance considered all of the charges acceptable.  Nor would they take a cash discount.  However they let us apply for financial aid, and after 2 hours of paperwork and getting paystubs, bank statements, and retirement statements together they did apply a 40% reduction to the bill.  And then again for the extremely ridiculously overpriced birth of our baby 2 months later, which was a huge and unexpected bonus.  Best 2 hours of work we've ever done.  We don't make a lot and have a very negative net worth (for now) though, so your results may vary on that front. 

They also gave us the option of a no interest no fee payment plan, which we took because, hey, more money to throw at interest bearing debts!  From what I understand most hospitals offer similar payment plans, so worst case scenerio if you can't negotiate it down, you could at least soften the blow.
Title: Re: Fighting hospital bill..?
Post by: Frankies Girl on April 23, 2015, 03:29:23 AM
Contact their billing department and tell them that you can't afford that amount. Be polite, but repeat it as many times as necessary, until they start offering you a discount, and keep saying variations of "That's helpful, but I still can't afford it. Is it possible to reduce it more?" until they tell you that is the best they can do.

I was told there is a number of times that you have to ask and stepped down discount levels that they are allowed to reduce bills with most hospitals. The key is the be polite, but firm about not being able to afford the bill, but making it understood that you will pay them if they can offer you a deep discount.

Title: Re: Fighting hospital bill..?
Post by: Argyle on April 23, 2015, 03:43:13 AM
Just to say that if you'd gone to Urgent Care, they would have insisted that you go to the Emergency Room (as your supervisor realized), as Urgent Care heart issues are too serious for Urgent Care they require too much equipment and they don't want to be liable for them.  And very likely they would have insisted that you go to the Emergency Room by ambulance, in case you had further trouble on the way.  That would have been prudent of them, and a life-saver in some cases.  If there's even a possibility of a heart attack, they have to respond as if it's a real threat.  So you saved many thousands by going to the Emergency Room as your first stop.
Title: Re: Fighting hospital bill..?
Post by: justme on April 23, 2015, 10:05:28 AM
I did phone their billing department and got them to send me a form for charity help, but I'm fairly sure I won't qualify because I had/have enough in my bank accounts to cover that (money from my late mother that I've since put into IRAs for last and this year and most of the rest into a high yield savings for emergencies and/or down payment on a house).  I don't make much money (~$30K/yr), but I only have student loans and no other debt.

The bill is split into a few sections, the main one is "hospital bill" of $1400+.  I guess I was hoping that there was a way to fight based on the fact that they missed the obvious rib out of place that was the cause of the whole mess.  I don't have a problem with the lab costs or the chest x-ray costs because it seems reasonable for those things to have been done.  I have a problem giving money to the hospital when they failed in their job, costing me 2 more weeks of pain, suffering, and loss of PTO. 

Unfortunately, the chiropractor said the chest x-ray didn't show the rib out because it was of the lungs and the ribs weren't visible enough. 

Thanks for the heads-up that I didn't save money by going to the Urgent Care.  If there's ever a next time, though, I'm going to my chiropractor first, especially since I have no history or family history of heart problems.
Title: Re: Fighting hospital bill..?
Post by: Argyle on April 23, 2015, 10:20:15 AM
"Wrong" tests don't get discounted from the bill, for good or for bad.  But in fact they did do what they were supposed to do, which is to figure out if you were having a heart attack and, if you were, do all necessary things to try to save your life.  In emergency-room situations, they go for the worst-case scenario first, because it's urgent to know whether there's a life-threatening situation.  So they determined that there wasn't.  That was your good luck, of course, although it doesn't seem like it.  It's unfortunate that they didn't figure out that the rib was the problem.  But they did figure out that you weren't in danger of dying from a heart attack.  Once that was clear, the diagnosis became much less urgent.  I'm sure it hurt, but it wasn't going to kill you.

If this exact thing happens again, you may be fine going to a chiropractor to get it checked out.  (Or by telling the emergency room docs that your rib goes out of place and produces these symptoms.)  I used to share a house with an emergency room nurse, though, and she had some tragic stories of people who arrived too late at the ER because they thought they'd just get their possible-heart-attack symptoms checked out a cheaper way first.  I'm sure it's often the case that people have saved money that way and found they had minor ailments.  But for the ones who were having an actual heart attack, that path could be fatal.  Men in particular, as a gender, are famous in the medical world for trying to tough it out, also known as "dying."
Title: Re: Fighting hospital bill..?
Post by: La Bibliotecaria Feroz on April 23, 2015, 02:36:04 PM
If they won't reduce it--and you should ask, since your income is low--they will at least put you on a payment plan and my understanding is that most/all health care payment plans are interest-free. Mine certainly were.
Title: Re: Fighting hospital bill..?
Post by: stlbrah on April 23, 2015, 02:44:44 PM
I got screwed bad pretty recently.

Got some ecoli poisoning in Cambodia and had very bad TD. I have never had TD before so I thought I was seriously sick. I was in the hospital for about 30 minutes and they gave me a single dose of cipro.

Cost about $2500... $950 of which I paid. I don't ever recall NOT getting screwed by the ER. My parents always push the ER and other expensive services on me because they are not good with money, but their intentions are good.

 I have since decided to educate myself more on symptoms of common things, and where to go/what to do if I have any issues.