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The Right Battle Plan Wins Against the “Medical-Industrial Complex”
“I felt ENERGIZED fighting this massive machine that is health care,” Zack Conner said. He saved $1,241. Follow his example and you could save, too!
Zack Conner recently stared down the health care billing bullies and won.
Zack found himself in a situation that’s common for working Americans. He was getting overcharged for an emergency room visit and CT scan his baby girl needed after she took a fall. But Zack didn’t back down. He carefully followed the battle plan in I lay out in my book and health literacy videos. He took a meticulous and evidence-based approach and saved his family $1,241.
Zack did such a great job writing up his story on LinkedIn that I asked him if I could publish a version of his post here in my newsletter. Read his story and then see some additional observations I had from my conversation with him about the battle. Zack is one of the pioneers, blazing a trail for the rest of us to follow. His Victory Story is inspiring.
Zach’s original write-up has been edited for clarity.
I want to give a huge shoutout to Marshall Allen. Not only is his book, Never Pay the First Bill, a game changer, but also because Marshall helped me fight against the constant overcharging in our health care system.
What happened? My 1-year-old daughter Zara suffered a head injury. We rushed to the nearest hospital fearing the worst. After a two hour emergency room visit that included a negative CT scan and ibuprofen our fears were gone because our daughter would be fine.
Then came the hospital bill. A bill that came out to be more expensive than the C-section it took to deliver her.
I reached out to Marshall, having read his book, and asked for his advice. Once I was armed with the information I needed, I went into full research mode, which consisted of five hours of intense digging.
First, I requested from the hospital: an itemized medical bill, with the billing codes, and my daughter's medical records.
I took 14 screenshots and compiled an Excel doc with three tabs listing out Medicare pricing for each procedure's medical code. I then calculated what the hospital was charging vs what each website had shown to be an appropriate price.
What did I find?
That I had been charged 5706% over the Medicare rate for the emergency room exam, billing code 99282; and 1390% over the Medicare rate for the CT scan, billing code 70450. The total bill came to $3,151, after the insurance company paid its share.
Thankfully, the work paid off. I contested the overcharges in a detailed email to the hospital and received a revised bill that saved my family $1,241. I could have done more though, because the hospital only revised the emergency room exam portion of the bill.
Going to small claims court would've been the next step, and I would have had a good case. But thankfully I am blessed to have the resources to pay the $900 difference between what I considered the fair price and what they were charging. Others do not have that kind of disposable income to pay an overpriced bill. In those cases, small claims court might be the right option.
What did I learn from this four month experience?
NEVER ever ever ever pay the first bill you receive no matter how "urgent" the hospital makes it sound. First, check to make sure it’s accurate and fairly priced.
ALWAYS request an itemized medical bill with billing codes.
ARM yourself with data in your fight.
The MEDICAL-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX is alive and well. Doctors and nurses are amazing and I couldn't be happier with the services and care they provided. But hospital administrators and insurance carriers are not your "advocate."
Lastly, I felt ENERGIZED fighting this massive machine that is health care and it felt good to score a small "win." And you can do the same!
I love it! Many thanks to Zack for sharing his Victory Story!
I called Zack to gather a few more insights. Zack is one of the owners of Conner Insurance, a family owned agency in Indianapolis, started by his grandfather in 1949. Part of the reason he pressed this billing issue is to understand what the employees on his clients’ health plans would have to deal with. He also wanted to see whether he could succeed by putting the methods into practice.
Zack said his family could have afforded to pay the full bill - even with its excessive prices. But he knows that’s not the case for many American families. About 4 in 10 respondents to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey said they would not be able to immediately pay off a medical bill of $500. Many of the employees on his clients’ health plans work for nonprofits, he said. They might only make $10-15 an hour or earn a salary of $30,000. An overpriced medical bill would be devastating to those families. Those patients need the right battle plan because they are fighting for their economic survival.
As Zack mentioned, he sent me occasional LinkedIn messages to inquire about the next steps as he contested the bill. You are welcome to do the same! It’s fun for me to help people navigate the process and it’s a big part of what we’re building here at Allen Health Academy.
It took time and persistence to research the bill, Zack said. But he got a good return on his investment of time. “1200 bucks in my pocket is better than giving it to a health care system that makes almost a billion a year,” Zack said.
Here's how I look at it the time it takes to battle these bills. Saving $1,231 for five hours of work is like paying yourself about $250/hour - by saving your own money.
Everybody loves it when the underdog wins. But most of the time we’re not even giving American workers the battle plan - and they and their employers are paying the price because of it. Let’s arm them! The Never Pay Pathway videos are a great place to start.
Check out video one in The Never Pay Pathway curriculum
The highlight of writing Never Pay the First Bill has been seeing people like Zack Conner take the principles and put them into practice. We’ve proven the concept: informed patients are empowered patients.
The Never Pay Pathway health literacy videos take the same message and make it much more accessible to working Americans. Now, for the first time, we’re releasing the first video in the 16-part series so you can take a look. Check it out!
The videos are available to individuals, and scholarships are available. The big vision is to integrate the curriculum into employer sponsored health plans, to protect the financial wellness of employees as they seek medical care. I’ve been encouraged by the benefits advisors and others who are looking to equip the employees on their health plans. Be sure to reach out if that’s something that interests you.
Go to www.allenhealthacademy.com for more information.
Kaiser Family Foundation: Inflation is coming for health care costs
A new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that in July, overall prices, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, were up 8.5% compared to the year before. Prices for medical care increased 4.8% percent in the same year.
That’s a big win for health care consumers, right?
Wrong. Inflation is probably coming for health care prices, too.
“The relatively high rate of inflation seen in the rest of the economy may eventually translate to higher prices for medical care,” the report said. “This may lead to steeper premium increases in the coming years.”
Yikes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Employers, you don’t have to keep overpaying for health care benefits. Team up with a savvy advisor and provide BETTER benefits at a LOWER cost. It’s happening already around the country. We just need more employers to step up!