Are Medical Billing Problems Getting Any Better?

Nearly everyone has dealt with medical billing mistakes, and the subsequently lengthy process of straightening out problems.

I played phone tag for two days with my physician’s office assistant to correct a mistake in my bill, which charged me for two visits instead of one. Luckily, I have a good memory, and I could recall exactly what had happened that caused confusion. I had arrived for my appointment on August 3, and my physician asked me to come back on another day, because she was too busy. She assured me that I would not be charged since I was doing her a favor by rescheduling. I came back two weeks later and had a full exam. Well, the bill charged me for two appointments, including the first day I showed up when the doctor turned me away. In August, guessing that it might turn into a Medical Billing problem, I had called my insurance to clarify the situation, and I wrote down several medical billing codes that served as my billing confirmation. Apparently, somewhere in the billing process, codes were mixed up for other codes, and there was a malfunction in the Medical Billing Company, so said the office assistant. Five months later, because of a delay caused by a malfunction in the medical billing company, I received the incorrect medical bill. This sort of thing has happened to me before. Once, I noticed a mysterious charge on my medical bill for removal of an ingrown toenail. I was insulted, as my toenails are like impeccable diamonds. I felt slightly embarrassed to call the doctor’s office and dispute the charge. In that situation, the doctor refused to agree with me. It was decided that he was in the right, and I am sure they wrote somewhere in my file that I had a memory problem as well as a toenail problem. They forced me to pay up.

If you have not been reading your medical bills, you may want to start. Although it is daunting to sift through the medical code, and unpleasant to call someone to complain, you could be losing significant money if you do not. It used to be worse. For many decades, paper was the medium for medical billing. The government then took measures to make medical billing more efficient. In 1996, Congress enacted the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ( HIPAA). Since 2005 medical offices have been pushed to submit their claims electronically in compliance with the HIPAA. Since the advent of the Internet, medical billing companies have exploded as an industry, and medical billing software has improved dramatically. What once took months to process now takes a matter of minutes. Error detection is built into software, and physicans’ offices are breathing a sigh of relief. Because patients are sharing their medical billing woes, though websites like , demand is continuing for improved medical billing practices. People are blogging and openly discussing how to request better service from medical billing companies. Technology points to a better future for medical billing, but patients will need to continue being vocal about their medical billing problems, to push for continual improvements.