a surprise bill
Five years after being diagnosed with diabetes, and two years after starting insulin for it, I moved across the state. I researched the area I was moving to and set up an appointment with an endocrinologist. There was only one endocrinologist in 300 miles and they were scheduling new patients 9 months out. That was going to be too long of a time period. So, I also searched for a primary care doctor who would take my insurance. I got the appointment with the primary care doctor. The appointment was scheduled for 3 months out.
Fortunately, my current doctor agreed to refill my prescriptions for 6 months, so this 3 month waiting period would work out ok. Primary care doctors could prescribe insulin too, so I thought that would work out fine.
When the day for the doctor’s appointment finally came, I got what I needed to survive: insulin prescriptions. What I didn’t get was a physical examination, or a doctor who I would ever want to see again. The doctor was quite strange in his behavior and didn’t do any physical examination at all. He didn’t even listen to my heart!
He basically just interviewed me and asked me what medications I needed. He wrote prescriptions for insulin and also for an anti-anxiety medication that I had previously taken. Some doctors don’t like to prescribe this anti-anxiety drug (klonopin), but we was OK with it and also asked if there was “anything else” I needed.
Nope, I didn’t need anything else.
I didn’t like him and decided that I would find another doctor.
I also felt like he didn’t do his job at all.
But the even bigger surprise was the bill I received in the mail. The doctor appointment was at a small clinic and it has lasted less than 20 minutes. The bill was for $663!
Disputing the medical bill
Phone Call #1
I called up the number on the bill. The clinic was associated with an area hospital. The person I spoke to explained how the “new patient” fee was typical and offered a small discount. They acted like medical bills are just expensive. I got nowhere with them and hung up.
(Further research has since confirmed that a “new patient” fee is typical for the first time visit with a doctor. However, this was only a small part of the cost here.)
Phone Call #2
I have learned to not give up easily.
I looked at the bill more closely, and saw the medical codes for the visit.
I researched these medical codes, and the description of what these codes were for didn’t match my visit. There was also a cautionary tale online about how these codes should only be used in extreme circumstances.
My visit had been planned 3 months out, and there was no urgency to it. With this new information in mind, I called again, and explained how the billing code didn’t match the experience. This time, the lady on the phone said that she would have the bill re-done and that I didn’t need to pay anything until I got the corrected bill.
Two months later, the new bill arrives. $292
Learn how to dispute a medical bill
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DISPUTING A MEDICAL BILL AND REDUCING YOUR PAYMENT – Robert discusses how he was billed incorrectly and what to do about it. He suggests that billing errors happen frequently. Top tips are to research the medical codes and to get a detailed (line item) bill.