Medical bills — some new developments
Years ago I remember sitting with a representative of a hospital billing department trying to determine the meaning of medical bills regarding a family member’s treatment. One aspect that was especially odd was that, for the same treatment, an infusion, the bill to us could be $200 or it could be $2,000. How could there be such a difference from one infusion to the next?
After wrestling with the billing statement and reviewing the details, I finally turned to the representative and said in so many words “so am I correct that the insurance company decides what to pay and whatever is left is left for us to handle?” Her answer, although I do not remember the exact words, was along the lines of “that’s about it.” There were minor differences. A blood test taken at one appointment was not taken at another. A TB test at one might not have been repeated at another. It could have been “coded” differently from one visit to another or maybe the insurance coverage changed in moving into another year. However, it was basically the same procedure.
Medical billing is still, to some extent, a mystery to me although I work with families who have medical issues all the time and that includes reviewing their expenses. I understand I am not alone. Since medical bills — including medications, hospitalizations, physicians’ appointments, rehabilitations, therapies and procedures among other expenses are reported to be the No. 1 cause of bankruptcies in America, there really needs to be some understandable way to explain differences and to assist people who are going through problems usually not of their own making.
Two interesting recent developments of note have come across my table, so to speak. One is the launch of a new service by Kaiser Health News that can be accessed at https:// khn.org/send-us-your-medicalbills/. The other is a campaign “NBC Responds: Erasing Medical Debt” launched in Philadel-