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Myth-busters: Yes, you can fight overpriced medical bills
We are not obligated to pay a medical bill if it's inaccurate or overpriced. We must fight it - and the law is on our side!
Dr. Peter Attia is brilliant. He’s trained at Stanford, Johns Hopkins and the NIH. He has a best-selling book: Outlive. And his social media following is massive.
But he doesn’t understand a fundamental truth about medical bills.
Attia recently shared his family’s story about an outrageous medical bill on his YouTube channel. His son had gone to a San Diego hospital because he was dehydrated. They did some basic lab tests and gave him some fluids - that’s it.
The total bill came to $5,900!
“Astonishingly,” Attia said, his insurance company, Aetna, paid about $4,000.
“Which left us with about a $2,000 bill,” he said, “which I suppose we have no choice but to pay…”
Wait - what did he say?
The myth that patients have “no choice” but to pay an outrageous and overpriced medical bill is one of the fundamental causes of our skyrocketing health care costs in the United States. It’s a pervasive misunderstanding that illustrates how we’ve been groomed for exploitation. And the myth even afflicts the smartest among us - including, apparently, Attia!
What is a myth? It’s a widely held false belief. In health care we have many myths that need to be busted because they’re causing harm and impeding our ability to get a fair deal. Welcome to my second installment of “Myth-busters.” Let’s bust this myth that we have “no choice” but to pay an overpriced medical bill.
I called my book Never Pay the First Bill to challenge this myth head on. I’m not saying we should not pay our medical bills. But we should not pay them unless we have first checked them to make sure they are fair and accurate.
Here are four reasons that we MUST fight unfair and inaccurate medical bills.
1. Our health care system discriminates against working Americans.
Overpriced medical bills are the norm for working Americans. If you’re a working American who’s not on a government health plan, you’re automatically paying two-times, five-times, or even 10-times what people on Medicare are paying for the same services, provided by the same providers at the same facilities.
It’s not right to make working people pay exponentially more for the same services. We don’t accept it in other industries. If my Mom and I went to McDonald’s and we both ordered a Big Mac, it would be unacceptable for McDonald’s to bill her $3, and bill me $6, or $15 or even $30. But that type of overcharging is mainstream in health care. It’s price discrimination against working Americans – immoral and unethical behavior that’s been baked into our health care system. We must contest it.
2. Medical bills are riddled with errors.
Medical billing errors are common - and could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars each. They are so frequent because of the ridiculous complexity of our billing system. Millions of claims are processed every day, on antiquated IT systems where there’s little quality control or incentive to maintain accuracy. A medical provider that insists you must pay a bill that doesn’t reflect the services you received is breaking the law. So check your bill to make sure it’s accurate - and don’t pay it if it’s wrong!
3. The law says prices must be “reasonable.”
My book and health literacy videos, The Never Pay Pathway, which are based on the book, highlight the Open Price Term, which is part of our country’s Uniform Commercial Code, the law that governs commercial transactions in the United States. The Open Price Term (screenshot below) says if a price isn’t set at the time of service, it will be a “reasonable” price.
I have shown before how this powerful law can protect consumers. Hospitals and other medical providers rarely give us the prices up front, and they are not allowed to charge us whatever they want. We can compare what they bill us to what’s reasonable (my book and videos and other columns show how to do this) and then contest overcharges. That’s what Attia and the rest of us should be doing. The law is on our side!
4. You can fight back and win.
It’s estimated that 100 million Americans are burdened by medical debt. That’s a tragedy! But the real outrage is that almost all of them were overcharged and were not equipped to fight back. My book and videos highlight the principles and tactics everyday Americans can deploy to win. Check out my previous columns that highlight how it’s done. This Texas mom saved more than $4,744. This dad saved $1,241. This family saved $1,908. Here are more examples where my readers saved between $969 and $65,500. Read my Amazon reviews for more examples.
Fighting overpriced medical bills works.
We all need to make the choice to stand up to these unfair and unjust medical bills. And I have a special exhortation for people like Attia. He said in his video that he is “fortunate enough” to pay the outrageous $2,000 portion of his bill. People like Attai, and me, and possibly you, might have the disposable income to handle this type of bill. But about half of Americans would be sent into debt by a bill that’s more than a few hundred dollars.
Those of us who have the knowledge and means to pay these bills must stand up against them when they are inaccurate or overpriced - not just for ourselves, but for those who are unable to stand up for themselves. It starts with trashing the myth that we have “no choice” but to pay the bill. We have a choice to stand up to injustice. So let’s do it!
Employers - Let’s Work Together to Equip Your Employees
I love to see working Americans have their mindset flipped by effective health literacy education. Our health care system isn’t broken. It was designed this way. It’s no accident that employers and working Americans keep paying more than they should for health care. But employees are not powerless.
Does your organization sponsor health benefits for your employees? Want to see them get equipped to be savvy health care consumers? I’m looking for bold employers to equip their employees with my Never Pay Pathway health literacy videos. They’re based on my book, Never Pay the First Bill, and the knowledge will transform the way your employees engage the health care system.
The videos are an ENGAGING resource that will save money for your employees and their families - and your health plan. Let’s stop overpaying for our health care, shall we? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Email us at email@example.com.
I’m looking for bold employers to equip their employees with my Never Pay Pathway health literacy videos. They’re based on my book, Never Pay the First Bill, and the knowledge will transform the way your employees engage the health care system.
The videos are an ENGAGING resource that will save money for your employees, their families - and your health plan. Let’s stop overpaying for our health care, shall we? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.