You’re sorting through your mail and find a bill for an account you thought had been closed a long time ago. The medical field is especially prone to these long-term clerical frustrations. But why does this happen? Is there anything that you, as a consumer, can do to prevent these delayed charges? Unfortunately, the answer to the latter is not a great deal, but there are a few things that you can do to get ahead of the game. You are responsible for these bills, but it is nice to know why you are being charged.
As nice as it sounds, these delayed charges are rarely bills you don’t have to pay. If an unexpected bill makes it to your mailbox, most of the time you are going to need to pay for it. Hospitals aren’t particularly susceptible to sending charges to the wrong patient (largely due to patient/doctor confidentiality and other privacy concerns). It’s more likely that a charge was delayed or overlooked in some other way. Hospitals also tend to use charge capture software to accurately track and follow through with patient charges.
The more likely scenarios largely lie with insurance companies. Whenever you have a medical appointment, the insurance company is not immediately charged. For larger bills, your insurance might even negotiate with your healthcare provider to lower their costs. Sometimes your policy was misunderstood, or the insurance company refused to pay for the bill and you are left with the difference. Depending on your provider, you might be able to talk with your insurer and settle the bills with your insurance.
The bill you paid initially might not have been the full bill. Incidentals, fees, and other charges can rack up quickly in a healthcare setting. It might take a few weeks, or even months, to consolidate those fees and forward them to you, the patient.
As frustrating as these unexpected bills may be, they generally have a cause, and always need to be handled quickly.