Medical Billing Is a Dumpster Fire; How Much Do You Think We’re Owed?

I received a bill yesterday from my CPAP supply company for $133. I have no idea why. As far as I was concerned, I had a $0 balance.

When I cross-referenced all of the relevant info, I got different totals. This included info from:

  • their invoices
  • my payment history in their records
  • my health insurance company’s records
  • my records, and
  • our bank records.

Of course, the only numbers that matched? What we’d been invoiced for and my records. But I pulled my records from our bank and tracked when I paid them too, sooooo 🤷🏾‍♀️

But this brings me to something I’ve pondered for a few years: How do we know any of this is accurate?

Medical billing goes through so many systems and companies that I’m convinced most of us have been vastly overcharged due to unnoticed errors. Why are they unnoticed? Because tracking this shit is a hassle.

How many people actually question the medical bills they get? I know I don’t with most of ours. I only questioned this CPAP one because I didn’t think I owed anything and because the bill . . . was for stuff in November 2022! It’s almost a year old, but it’s a new bill?! I know I didn’t owe anything about a week ago. I checked! I’m paranoid about this stuff.

But to actually look at the numbers from all potential sources for every single medical bill? For some of us, that’s a full-time job. Ironically, the more medical history we have, the less energy we usually have to be eagle-eyed about charges. But that’s a post for another day.

Frankly, all of that furthers my point. The medical billing situation is in such disarray that it takes months to be charged for a visit once it is processed through the most expensive game of telephone, played by people who stand to make the most off the game.

I wouldn’t be annoyed about this if Americans didn’t already have almost $90 billion in medical debt, which 2/3 of bankruptcies in the U.S. involve either “medical expenses,” “illness-related work loss,” or both. Honestly, how much of that is a result of inaccuracies?

What if, god forbid, we actually owe more?!

Worse, we can “buy” medical debt for a fraction of the actual charges, which means a lot of this is arbitrary nonsense anyway, yet people are losing homes and living in poverty because of medical debt. And hey? Guess who suffers more because of it?

It’s absolute bullshit.

The case for universal health care could not be stronger, but health insurance companies control the medical industry so much that neither will ever let it happen.

We will never truly have transparency in our health care costs let alone a less convoluted billing structure because that’s when the health care industry would have to admit to price gouging.

You know who almost always makes out nicely during recessions? Yeah. You get the idea.

In the meantime, I hope you are paying close attention to your finances especially with regard to health care. Ask for itemized bills. Have your spreadsheet-obsessed friend* track it for you. It’s worth it.

*Whenever I get a tracking system that works, I’ll share it here. I’ve only been working on one all year.

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