Got a medical billing issue? Contact WBTV Investigates

How to avoid surprise medical bills

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - In the past year, the WBTV Investigates tip line has received thousands of calls and emails from viewers like you with problems they want investigated - people looking for help exposing corruption, solving a consumer problem, or dealing with a surprise medical bill.

WBTV Investigates has been able to help our viewers save more than $177,000 in less than a year. Out of that, almost half was related to surprise medical bills.

Here’s what we’ve learned from helping our viewers and what you can do to try and avoid unexpected bills from your next trip to the doctor.

“Do you guys accept UnitedHealthcare and they told me, ‘yes we do,’ and that ‘you should be fine,’” said Todd Meixner, who says he was charged an out of network fee at an in network hospital.

Before you even set foot in a medical facility, make sure to verify that it’s in network.

In many cases, our viewers took that first step, only to be shocked by a bill where some services like anesthesia were not covered.

“I’m kind of at a loss at what to do and who I need to go to - or help take care of figuring out why an out of network provider was used without my knowledge to begin with,” said Lori Parsons who was shocked by a $1,200 medical bill.

To help avoid that shock, take advantage of a new transparency law that just went in to effect, which enables you to see the prices of a procedure upfront.

Hospitals are required to make public a list of standard charges for items and services the hospital provides.

“I wish I had known how much this was going to cost, because I wouldn’t have gotten the stitches or I would have gone to urgent care,” said Emily Plazek who was surprised by a medical bill.

Know the difference between facilities because each place you go has a different base price.

“I was very pleased that I was able to be seen, but I wasn’t very happy with the bill I got,” said Peter Snyder.

In this case, urgent care was closed, so Snyder says he ended up paying a $1,300 hospital bill for bug bite treatment.

Sometimes, billing mistakes happen – like coding errors - so hold on to your bills and any documentation you have for at least a year after your procedure.

One man’s insurance sent a letter to the doctor saying his PET scan would be covered as an in network cost.

But his family still received a bill for over $6,000 dollars.

“Of course upon receiving it, we called Carolinas. Carolinas said that we need to talk to our insurance company - that it was a filing issue,” said Casey McCurry.

If you get a bill and see something wrong – you thought the procedure was preauthorized but it wasn’t, the wrong billing code was used, or there was an incorrect classification of a procedure, - contact all parties involved.

In the end, it’ll take the hospital and insurance company working together to get the issue resolved.

And if you still can’t get your problem resolved, call our tip line to see if we can help.

That number is 704-374-3511 or email investigates@wbtv.com.

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