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Check your medical bills for costly errors

Jim Miller explains how carefully checking your medical bills can save you money.
BY Jim Miller Modified: June 18, 2012 at 4:08 pm •  Published: June 19, 2012


I need some help understanding my medical bills from my knee replacement surgery earlier this year. My wife and I live on a pretty tight budget so I like to keep track of our costs as closely as possible. But the bills I've received are vague and confusing. What can you tell us?

Trying To Recover

DEAR TRYING: Errors and overcharging have become so commonplace on medical bills today that double-checking them is a very smart move. Here are some tips and tools that can help.

According to the Medical Billing Advocates of America, as many as nine out of 10 hospital bills may have errors on them, most of which are in the hospital's favor. Bills from doctor's offices and labs have mistakes too, but they tend to be fewer and further apart.

To help you get a handle on your medical bills, the first thing you need to do is request an itemized statement detailing the charges of the procedures, supplies, tests and services they provided you. They are legally required to provide you with this information.

If the statement contains confusing billing codes or abbreviations, call the billing office for an explanation. You can also look up most medical billing codes online by going to any online search engine and typing in “CPT” followed by the code number. Review the statement carefully and keep your eyes peeled for these mistakes:

Double billing: Being charged twice for the same services, drugs or supplies.

Typos: Incorrect billing codes or dollar amounts.

Canceled work: Charging for a test your doctor ordered, then canceled.

Phantom services: Being charged for services, test or treatments that were never received.

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