More Bang For Your Buck: Negotiating hospital bills - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

More Bang For Your Buck: Negotiating hospital bills

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It was a case of hives in the middle of the night that landed Dan Bartges' teenage daughter in the emergency room. No surprise, Benadryl and prednisone got it under control. The shock came with the bill.

"I was just thunderstruck," said Dan.

He tried negotiating. The hospital wasn't budging. His portion? Roughly $1200. That's when he wrote to NBC12. I took his itemized bill to be decoded by Medical Recovery Services in Roanoke.

"If you've paid without questioning most likely you have paid money you should never have paid," said Pat Palmer, CEO of Medical Recovery Services.

These medical billing experts picked Dan's bill apart, pointing out redundancies and what they call price gouging.

"8 out of 10 bills that come through our office contain errors," Palmer said.

They too negotiated with the hospital on Dan's behalf. Dan decided to write a letter the hospital's CEO.

"Didn't hear anything from the CEO, but a few weeks later i got a phone call from the hospital and the woman said,'We'd like to settle this. How about $200,'" Dan explained.

Dan considered the price reasonable and paid it immediately. He had no idea that ER visits could cost so much.

"The average ER bill is $2100," he said.

Had he known, he would have considered an urgent care facility.

"This whole process was a wake up call to me," Dan added.

His advice, don't be intimidated by a hospital bill. Ask questions, take detailed notes and fight for what you believe is fair.

"Persistence and a courteous attitude goes a very long way if you're going to contest a bill like that," he said.

The experts say never pay the first bill you get. Ask for it to be itemized and if you don't understand how it's coded, get a professional to analyze it.

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