Quoth Food Lady
I'm in the US. I went to X Medical Center to have 3 tests done by Y Medical Group. It was a very short, outpatient visit. I received a bill for the 3 tests that was itemized with amounts adding up to $400 or so. But I also received a bill from X Medical Center for over $700. It's not itemized. It doesn't explain what it's for, except "outpatient services". I will call and ask, but does anyone know if it's possible I am being charged that much simply for walking in the door? It seems like the "service" was that I got to exist in the building while the tests were being done. Is that possible? Does anyone have an idea what it's for? I will call them, but I'd like input from anyone who may have done billing or dealt with medical bills. It seems weird to get a paper saying essentially "pay us for vague service".
Health care in the US is "fee for service." Physicians, hospitals/medical facilities, and other ancillary services all bill seperately based on the service provided via a complicated system of medical codes (Diagnostic Related Groups or DRGs). It's common to get several bills related to one visit.
However, as the patient you have an absolute right to an itemized bill. Write to X Medical Center and demand a line item bill explaining the charges in complete detail. They'll probably send you a general bill with vauge categories like "Pharmacy services." If they do, write them back and say this is not an itemized bill, I want an itemized bill.
Then go over it line by line. Dispute any charge you do not understand, and demand proof the service was actually provided. Doctors, labs, and facilities routinely pad bills to counterbalance shortfalls in insurance payments. If you don't do this, then they can legally assume you do not dispute the charges and go after you for the full freight.
I've disputed bills several times and won. It takes some persistence, but they will back down.
Before filing an official dispute (if you do dispute the bill), go to the place of service and get a copy of the medical record. They have to provide it, though you may have to pay for the copies (at inflated costs per page, I might add). It will be worth it.