Medical billing errors are more common than you may think. If you are being overcharged for medical treatment and services – or charged for treatment and services that you did not receive – you may need to contact an Oklahoma City medical debt attorney.

It’s far too common: Someone needs surgery that requires a brief hospital stay. Later, that patient receives a bill that includes fees for treatments and medications that weren’t delivered or are not covered by insurance. Some people simply pay what the bill says they owe and ask no questions.

How many medical bills contain mistakes? How can you correct those mistakes and protect your credit and your financial resources? What can you do if a collection agency is harassing you? When should you schedule a consultation with an Oklahoma City medical debt lawyer?

If you’ll continue to read this brief discussion of medical billing errors and your rights as a consumer in Oklahoma, you will learn the answers to these questions, but if you are dealing personally with medical billing errors, you may also need to contact a debt defense attorney.

How Many Medical Bills Have Errors?

According to Medical Billing Advocates of America, as many as 80 percent of all medical bills include some type of billing error. Medical bills are often filled with inaccuracies, many of which are never detected. Patients are often overcharged but almost never undercharged.

According to one estimate, four out of five medical bills in the U.S. contain one or more minor mistakes. These mistakes cost the nation approximately $68 billion every year in unnecessary health care spending by patients and doctors alike. Why so many errors?

Billing procedures are constantly changing. Health care providers (and their staffs) often lack training in new medical coding methods. And a health care provider may practice cost shifting, charging paying or insured patients more to make up for uninsured patients who cannot pay.

What Are the Most Common Billing Errors?

Other frequent medical billing mistakes include but are not limited to:

  1. Duplicate charges: This happens when patients are billed more than once for the same service, treatment, or procedure.
  2. Canceled tests: Patients are frequently charged for a test or procedure that was scheduled but then canceled.
  3. Inaccurate information: Small mistakes, like misspelling a patient’s name or transposing a policy number, can lead to big problems.
  4. Unbundling: Unbundling happens when separate charges that should have been included under one procedure code are itemized separately.
  5. Upcoding: Upcoding happens when a hospital, accidentally or fraudulently, inflates a patient’s diagnosis or treatment to a more serious or complex diagnosis or treatment.

Intentional upcoding is fraudulent and illegal. If you discover upcoding or any other medical billing error, the first step you should take is asking your health care provider to correct the mistake immediately.

What Are the Consequences of Medical Billing Errors?

Medical bills with mistakes burden the system with extra administrative costs. When bills with mistakes are returned for corrections, it takes additional time and resources to correct the mistakes and submit those bills a second time.

Extra administrative costs, however, are not the only extra costs resulting from medical billing mistakes. Medical billing mistakes can cost you personally if you do not comb through every detail of every medical bill you receive.

An estimated 43 million people in the U.S. are pursued by debt collectors for unpaid medical bills each year. When you consider that three out of four medical bills may be inaccurate, the fact is that millions of consumers are harassed for debts that they do not actually owe.

When Should You Contact a Medical Debt Lawyer?

As mentioned above, if you find a medical billing error, immediately ask the health care provider to correct the error. If the health care provider does not correct the mistake, or if the provider claims there is no mistake, it is time for you to contact an Oklahoma City medical debt lawyer.

Similarly, if you are being harassed by a debt collection agency regarding an inaccurate medical bill, reach out to an Oklahoma City medical debt attorney at once. Some collection agencies engage in dubious and even illegal practices, such as:

  1.  trying to collect on a bill that has already been paid
  2.  trying to collect an amount greater than the original bill

How Should You Handle a Medical Billing Mistake?

Never pay a medical bill or a medical debt collector right away. Scrutinize every medical bill thoroughly. If a debt collector calls, write down the name of the agency and the person you are speaking with, along with the phone number, address, and email.

Also get the name of the health care provider you supposedly owe, the amount and date of the bill, and any other details. Simply by asking enough questions, you may be able to prevent a phony debt collector from calling you a second time.

Ask for a “verification of the debt.” When you make that request, the law requires a collection agency to send you details about the debt – within five days – and a list of your legal rights as a consumer.

What’s Your Next Step?

Upon receiving a verification of the debt, you have thirty days to dispute the debt in writing. Do it in a certified letter and keep a copy for your records.

If a medical debt that you do not owe shows up on your credit report, contact the credit bureau and ask them to correct the inaccuracy.

If you take these steps and a billing inaccuracy has not been corrected after thirty days, schedule a consultation with an Oklahoma medical debt lawyer. That lawyer will provide you with a no-cost, no-obligation case evaluation and will discuss your legal rights and options with you.

What’s Important to Remember About Medical Billing Errors?

Do not pay an inaccurate medical bill simply to get a health care provider or a debt collection agency “off your back.” Disputing an inaccurate bill and taking every step necessary to correct it is the more effective, permanent way to keep a creditor or a debt collector from pursuing you.

Finally, if you are struggling with a debt – medical or otherwise – that you cannot pay, make absolutely certain that you in fact owe the debt. A medical debt attorney will challenge a billing mistake on your behalf and help you find a practical way to settle any debt that you actually owe.