Childhood Cancer

Your Child in the Hospital

Problems with hospital bills

Not everyone experiences billing problems. People who have managed health care plans or who receive public assistance may never see bills. Some families have no problems with bills from the hospital. But many parents of children who spend time in the hospital encounter billing problems. Although it is impossible to prevent billing errors, it is necessary to deal with them. Here are step-by-step suggestions for solving billing problems:

• Check every bill from the hospital to make sure there are no charges for treatments not given or for errors, such as double billing.

I go through every bill looking for errors. When David had angioplasty and catheterization, the hospital part of the bill came to twenty thousand dollars. By the time I was done with the bill, it was only nine thousand dollars because I found so many errors.

• Contact a financial counselor at the hospital if you have any problems with billing. Financial counselors can help you understand the hospital’s billing system, work out a payment plan, and resolve disputes.

• Don’t pay a bill unless you have checked each item to make sure the charge is correct.

• Compare each hospital bill to the explanation of benefits (EOBs) you receive from your insurance company and investigate any discrepancies.

Our insurance paid 80 percent of everything, no questions asked, and always paid within a month. We never had a problem. People shouldn’t have to worry about finances or their insurance program at a difficult time like this.

• Call the billing department of the hospital immediately if you find a error. Write down the date, the name of the person you talk to, and the plan of action.

• If the error is not corrected on your next bill, call and talk to the billing supervisor. Explain politely the steps you have already taken and how you would like the problem fixed.

The hospital billing was so bad, and I had to call so often, that I developed a telephone relationship with the billing supervisor. I always tried to be upbeat, we laughed a lot, and it worked out. She stopped investigating every problem and would just delete the erroneous charge.

• Ask a family member or friend to help if you are too tired or overwhelmed to deal with the bills. Your friend could come every other week, open and file all bills and insurance papers, make phone calls, and write all necessary letters.

• Don’t let billing problems accumulate. Your account may end up at a collection agency, which can quickly become a huge headache.

Within five months of my daughter’s diagnosis, the billing was so messed up that I despaired of ever getting it straight. When the hospital threatened to send the account to a collection agency, I took action. I wrote letters to the hospital and the insurance company demanding that they each audit our account. When both audits arrived, they were thousands of dollars apart. I met with our insurance representative. She called the hospital, and we had a three-way conversation. We straightened it out that time, but every bill that I received had one or more errors, always in the hospital’s favor.