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Billing errors can add thousands of dollars to medical debt

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says more than 50 percent of consumers' unpaid debt reflected on credit reports is medical debt. Washington consumers with overdue medical debt may be interested in learning that the National Consumer Law Center estimates that seven million consumers nationwide have been contacted by debt collection agencies over medical debt that turned out to be billing errors. The impact of overdue debts on a consumer's credit score can be devastating.

With the big changes in health plans in recent years, medical billing procedures have also changed significantly, and as many as 250 people can be involved in creating one bill for a hospital stay. High-deductible health plans mean higher out-of-pocket costs for patients, and errors can be significant. For instance, an erroneous consultation charge of $250 or having charges from another patient's procedures charged to one's account can have devastating consequences. Errors totaling thousands of dollars have been found in medical bills.

Some errors are obvious and can be identified easily by scanning the bill. Consumers can check for duplicate entries such as two consultations on the same date, a charge for a test or procedure that was cancelled, or a charge for a copayment that was already paid. It is not uncommon for individual charges to appear that were included in a bundle. Whenever a bill arrives that is more than anticipated, it is worth a thorough check.

Washington consumers whose medical debt has become overwhelming may benefit from a consultation with a bankruptcy attorney who is experienced in navigating medical debt issues. A lawyer can provide guidance in scrutinizing medical bills for errors and suggest appropriate steps to resolve errors with the providers. In cases that cannot be resolved, an attorney can explain the protection offered by personal bankruptcy as a means to get some debts discharged in order to regain financial stability.

Source: gobankingrates.com, "Don't Overpay Because Your Doctor Screwed Up Your Bill", Beth Braverman, Dec. 12, 2015

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