How to Cut Your Hospital Bills
Even with health insurance, being hospitalized can cost hundreds, if not thousands,
of dollars. You may not be able to avoid a hospital stay, but you may be able to trim
If you are in a consumer-directed health plan, like a medical savings account, knowing
how to cut your costs is even more important. These plans place more responsibility
for healthcare decisions on your shoulders.
Before your stay
Be sure you understand your health insurance policy. Read your manual and updates
as they arrive. Ask your supervisor or employee-benefits staff to explain any rule
you find unclear. For instance, you could have to pay 50% of the costs if your plan
requires pre-approval and a second opinion for surgery and you don't comply.
Find out if you have to send the bills to the insurance company yourself. Or if your
healthcare provider's office and hospital will send them.
Ask your provider if routine tests can be done before you're hospitalized. For instance,
it may be less costly to have blood tests and chest X-rays as an outpatient.
Pay attention to check-in and checkout times. Save the cost of an extra night's stay
and ask to check in the day of your procedure, rather than the night before.
Find out if the hospital has progressive care, or step-down units. This is where healthier
patients can get a reduced level of care at a cost savings.
Get as much of your treatment pre-approved by your health plan as possible. You won't
have to fight for coverage later.
Ask your provider to tell you of all visits by other providers. Ask if the visits
are required for your recovery, because you'll be billed for them. Many hospitals
use hospitalists now. These are providers who only see hospital patients. Your own
healthcare provider may never see you in the hospital. Make sure the hospital doctor
knows who you are.
Avoid weekend and holiday admissions. Unless your surgery is an emergency, you may get
less medical care but will still be billed for your room.
When you check out
Check your bill as soon as you can after you are discharged. To keep from being overcharged,
ask for a detailed, itemized invoice. You don't necessarily need to review your bill
before you leave the hospital. You may not feel well when leaving, and you shouldn't
be making financial decisions then. You will have time to dispute any questionable
Be on the lookout for:
Medicines or supplies not provided. For instance, make sure you're not billed for medicines to take at home that you did
Services not provided. For instance, your healthcare provider may have ordered a test, then canceled it.
Or you may have been scheduled for 10 treatments from physical, speech, or other therapists
but received only 8.
Phantom charges. Hospitals often bundle common procedures into packages that include a standard set
of services, all of which are billed to patients. For instance, even if you didn't
use the delivery room or anesthesia when delivering a baby, the hospital may bill
you for them.
Duplicate billings. Be sure you are not billed more than once for the same test or procedure.
Inconsistencies. A test that cost $50 on Monday shouldn't cost $100 on Friday.
Call the hospital billing office and ask for an adjustment for any errors. If you
have trouble resolving your complaint, talk with your insurance company, employee-benefits
department, or your state's Department of Consumer Affairs.