Check up on that medical bill

Being sick or hospitalized can leave you with a feeling of helplessness and the high cost of health care can make the situation even worse. Whenever you incur medical expenses—large or small—it pays to perform a check up on the bill.

Medical Billing Advocates estimates that 8 out of every 10 medical bills contain multiple errors. Furthermore, a recent BusinessWeek article urges consumers to beware of balance billing. Balance billing, an often illegal practice, occurs when doctors or hospitals feel that they were not adequately reimbursed by insurance company. Instead of the medical provider working directly with the insurer, consumers are asked to pay the difference. According to the article, it is estimated that consumers fork over $1 billion a year that they shouldn't have to pay.

Before you pay any hospital or doctors’ bills, ask for a clear itemization of all charges. If you get a bill for the “balance” of what your insurance company did not pay, you may want to contact a lawyer to understand your rights and responsibilities. To locate an attorney, visit the American Bar Association’s Web site. Also visit the American College of Emergency Physician's Web site to learn about state laws regarding balance billing.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.