Understanding Confusing Medical Bills - NBC Connecticut

Understanding Confusing Medical Bills

Statements don’t always show where your balance comes from.

A Connecticut resident says Hartford Hospital has sent him statements with double dates of service on and off since August 2013, leading him to believe he owes hundreds of dollars more than his actual balance. (Published Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015)

A Connecticut resident says Hartford Hospital has sent him statements with double dates of service on and off since August 2013, leading him to believe he owes hundreds of dollars more than his actual balance.

Jason Fregeau can’t help but laugh at the irony as he sits on his dining room table, fumbling through two years-worth of documents related to his medical bills.

"My practice was consumer law," said Fregeau. "[I protected] people from harassment from debt collectors."

Dates for four of Fregeau's therapy appointments from March 2015 show up again on April’s statement, with the implication his account is past due. His April statement then tells him to pay $438, almost $200 more than his March balance of $262.

At first, Fregeau paid only what he calculated to be due. He’d open his statement every month and subtract any previously paid dates of service from his total bill. He then complained to both Hartford Hospital and to the state of Connecticut, but the problem continued.

A few months later, Hartford Hospital sent him to a debt collector.

"I had eight dates of service for which I did not owe anything," said Fregeau. "I called up Hartford Hospital and they said, 'We don’t know why you’ve been sent to a debt collector. You’re not behind.'"

Officials with Hartford Hospital told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters they never double-billed Fregeau.

"This incident shines a light on the confusion that often surrounds healthcare billing. In this case, the patient was never double billed. The insurance provider underpaid for the services rendered. Once the error was noted, the bill had to be resubmitted to insurance, and that may have appeared to be a second bill. It was not. It was an effort to correct an earlier insurance billing error," hospital officials said in a statement. "We truly regret any inconvenience. If any patient has a question about a bill, we have customer service representatives ready to help. Please reach out to billing customer service at 860-696-3100."

Fregeau’s statements don’t indicate any reprocessing errors by his insurer. They also don’t show any of his previous payments, so it’s up to him to crunch the numbers.

"We see this happen all the time," said Pat Palmer, founder of Medical Billing Advocates of America. "It would be difficult for a patient to ever figure out what’s going on here."

Palmer advises consumers to ask for a detailed itemized statement from the billing department. That document shows all previous payments and any deductibles or adjustments made by your insurer. By cross-checking that with your current statement, you should have a much clearer view of where the final balance comes from.

"It seems like the more confusing they can make these statements, the less chance a patient has to question any of the billings, because they have no clue what they’re looking at," said Palmer.

Hartford Hospital says Fregeau is up to date. However, he still wonders if the fight he left in his past will stay there.

"If they follow the pattern," said Fregeau. "They’ll be sending me to collections come August."

If you need additional help with your medical bill, contact Palmer at MBAA.
 

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