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10 Ways to Negotiate a Medical Bill

Scrutinize Your Bill

Don't take your hospital bill as gospel. Billing departments make errors. Let's look at the case of Ron and Marilyn Hess, of Homer, Alaska. The couple was saddled with a $10,000 hospital bill following Marilyn's $45,000 appendectomy. The couple, thinking their insurance should have paid for the entire procedure, asked for an itemized bill. They looked at every line and found procedures that weren't performed. It took 18 months and the help of a health-care advocate, but Ron and Marilyn triumphed. They didn't have to pay a dime [source: MSNBC].

Billing errors are very common. A doctor may request a procedure or a medication, than cancel it. Yet, the treatment still shows up on the bill. There might be a misplaced decimal point, or an extra zero, which can add hundreds and even thousands of dollars to your bill. Check the dates, too. You might not have been in the hospital or doctor's office on the day the procedure was allegedly completed [source: Brody]. And unfortunately, there are unscrupulous health care providers out to defraud you and the insurance company. The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimates that $68 billion -- or 3 percent of all health-care spending -- is fraudulent [source: Consumer Reports].