You might expect it when buying an appliance. You’re prepared for it when dealing with an insurance agent. And you’re certainly on the lookout for it when you go to buy a car.
But you’d NEVER expect a doctor or hospital to pull the old bait-and-switch on you.
Yet a stunning new report reveals that’s exactly what’s happening. And not when it comes to the procedure itself. This one’s all about the payments.
They bait you with the promise of care covered by your insurance only to hit you up with a bill for THOUSANDS you never expected. Fees that have to come out of YOUR wallet.
So today, let me blow the lid off this ugly swindle.
And more importantly, I’m going to share how you can avoid becoming a victim of this wallet-draining scam.
The OUT-OF-NETWORK surgery surprise
Recently, a series of alarming studies and reports have revealed that many folks who have procedures from doctors, surgeons, and other specialists covered by insurance are getting slammed with BIG BILLS anyway.
And that’s because of a little trick the medical establishment can pull.
The doctor might be in your network. And the procedure might be covered. But there are dozens of other hidden factors that could be billed separately, and some of them may not be covered.
In many cases, they WON’T warn you about this beforehand.
This year, a study found that one-fifth of elective surgeries with “in-network” hospitals and “in-network” providers produce surprise bills from out-of-network personnel.
These bills aren’t pocket change, either. They can raise the cost of your surgery by more than $14,000. In some cases, you can get hit with a HUGE fee when an out-of-network doctor simply walks in the room to check on you.
If you’re not prepared for them, they can charge interest… put it on your credit report… sell it to debt collectors… and even garnish wages.
A second recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 18 percent of emergency visits and 16 percent of inpatient admissions lead to unexpected out-of-network bills, especially for heart procedures.
On common factor: surgical assistants.
The Association of Surgical Assistants estimates that one in four assistants don’t work for doctors or hospitals directly. They’re essentially independent contractors. So when a doctor calls them in to assist on a surgery, they can bill the patient directly and may not be covered by insurance.
A second: anesthesiologists.
Many do not work for the doctor doing the surgery but the hospital or clinic. And like assistants, some are independent contractors who can bill directly, sometimes to the tune of THOUSANDS of dollars.
Plan ahead to avoid hidden fees
So if you have an upcoming surgery, you’re probably wondering what you can do to avoid these hidden costs. To be honest, it may be close to impossible to prevent ALL of these bills without serious reform of the medical industry.
But I have good news too. There are THREE actions you can take to reduce your odds of getting hit with hidden fees or manage them if you do.
ACTION #1: If you have an elective procedure coming up, go over EVERYONE who’s going to be involved with your healthcare team in advance. That includes confirming who the doctor, assistants, and anesthesiologists will be and that each is covered by your insurance.
Don’t forget to confirm that the clinic or hospital where the surgery is being done is in-network. And make it clear that if they have any last-minute personnel swaps, it has to be someone IN your network.
ACTION #2: If you get an unexpected bill after surgery, call first to go over it and find out what happened. Then, call your insurer. Some plans will make (often relatively small) payments to an out-of-network provider, but it has to be reimbursed differently. And third, call the hospital or clinic to see if you can negotiate a lower fee and a payment plan if you need it.
ACTION #3: Start putting a little money aside as an emergency rainy-day fund for these and other unexpected medical expenses. Because you never know when you might need it. You can even open a separate savings account and have a small amount direct deposited into it with each check, so you don’t even miss it.
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