The only thing worse than an unexpected trip to the emergency room is the hospital bill that comes later.
Even with insurance, emergency room visits can be expensive. Especially if you need any sort of real treatment. But what happens if the hospital makes a mistake?
For example, a stray cat bites you. The hospital charges you $25,000 for a single rabies shot (before insurance). And you can’t get them to fix their error. What do you do?
That’s what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.
How Do I Fix a Hospital Bill Mistake if the Hospital Won’t Help?
The hospital charged me for eight rabies shots when I only got one. Now they won’t adjust the bill. What do I do?
That’s what a Clark listener asked on the Aug. 23 podcast.
Asked Sabrina in Florida: “A stray cat bit me, so I went to the ER for a rabies vaccine. I received one rabies shot. When the ER bill came back for my visit, my jaw DROPPED: $25,000 before insurance ($4,500 after)!
“There was a mistake — the itemized bill shows I was charged for eight total shots instead of just the one I received. I’ve been calling the billing department of the hospital’s risk management number for months to try to resolve the bill with no luck. Where can I go next? I’m afraid the bill will go to collections.”
Let’s pause to acknowledge the absurdity of that bill. It’s understandable why you’d feel flustered and wronged.
“Even if it was eight rabies shots, the hospital is out of its mind charging you $25,000. $25,000?!” Clark says. “I mean, what is the shot? Is it given to you in a gold disposable syringe? The hospitals are just out of control.
“This is obviously inexcusable that the hospital would make a terrible billing error and then no one, no one will respond? It stinks to high heaven. It’s crazy, isn’t it?”
Step 1: Contact a Local TV Station
Clark’s first suggestion to solve this hospital mistake is to contact a local TV reporter. Local news stations love stories like this, he says.
“Their bite is gonna be worse than rabies for the hospital publicity-wise,” Clark says. “When they are able to say, ‘A $25,000 bill for one shot at a hospital! You’ve gotta see details at 5!’ I mean, man, what a story.
“I would just love to go there with the camera and the mic and say, ‘Can you explain how a shot is $25,000?’ A shot? What shot would be $25,000?”
Step 2: Go to the Hospital Patient Advocate
Hospital systems typically employ a “patient advocate” or a “hospital social worker.” These people are in place to help with things such as hospital mistakes on bills.
“We’ve found repeatedly and we keep getting feedback from people who have had problems with hospital billing departments that when you get to the hospital patient advocate or the hospital social worker, that a problem that you’ve tried to resolve month after month after month gets solved just like that,” Clark says.
“But I want to hear back, Sabrina, what you end up doing and what solves the problem. If you still run into a brick wall, we need to know that too to come up with alternative suggestions.
“And we are all in the wrong business. Come to my place and I will give you that shot for $25,000! Wow.”
Dealing with hospital billing mistakes can test your patience and resourcefulness. But don’t give up.
Going public with your headline-grabbing issue, or working with the hospital’s own patient advocate, are two ways you may be able to get the hospital’s attention to fix your issue.