You have a right to know where the prices come from. Below is a template for a letter I recommend you send to any hospital anytime you have a bill—even if your insurance company has already paid part of it. We have the ability, right now, to force hospitals to become transparent in their pricing. While flooding hospitals with letters that force them to invest time and effort to open, read, and respond to sounds like a very aggressive and obnoxious way to deal with them, it will be easy for them to put an end to such headaches and expense. All they have to do is become transparent and comply with the law that is already on the books.
As I’m sure you know, there is no penalty for failing to pay your hospital bill right away. In fact, there is no penalty for sitting on it for months. There is no penalty for calling and asking them to accept a lesser payment (which they sometimes do—why not try?). And there is no penalty for waiting until they send it to a collections agency. None of these steps will affect your personal credit score. The only thing that can affect your credit score comes after a collections agency receives it and does its due diligence. You can pay it at any time, and if you do, it won’t affect your credit score. A hospital bill that you do not pay for a year is not like a late mortgage or credit card payment. It won’t affect your credit score so long as you ultimately pay it. And if you wish to continue disputing it, just follow our process and never pay it if the hospital will not comply with the law.
By doing this, you will cost the hospital a great deal of money, time, and effort. And it costs you nothing. So stop paying bills for hospitals that will not be fully transparent and comply with the law. Call this a form of civil disobedience if you like. It does not appear our government is going to enforce the law, so we have to do it ourselves. You should not feel guilty about this. All a hospital has to do is comply with the law.
Here is a letter I recommend you send every hospital that is not 100% compliant with Federal Law:
Dear [insert hospital name]:
As I’m sure you are aware, hospital bills are notorious for their errors. Depending on the source of the information, estimates range from 40% to 90% of all hospital bills having errors. You may refer to the links below to understand my concern:
- A copy of your entire price list which I am entitled to under 42 U.S.C.A. § 300gg-18(e). I am not interested in a bill that only shows the prices for the services I received. I cannot know if what appears on my bill is correct and whether there may be another charge that was more appropriate without seeing the entire list of charges. And in any event, I am entitled to your price list under the law. I will need your entire price list that I have most often seen referred to as a chargemaster.
- I will also need a copy of my medical record. Please feel free to transmit it to me electronically at [insert an email address]. You may accept this letter as my written authorization to release my medical record. I’m sure you’ll understand that with the high rate of errors in medical billing, I will need to see my medical record and where each charge is derived from. While I understand you use a complex system of medical coding, I simply cannot pay a bill for something I cannot personally validate.