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Twice is Nice: Learning to Fight A Bogus Medical Bill Leads to a Double Win
Don Jones invested in his health literacy. Then he played hardball with Labcorp and Anthem to save $6,247 on bogus out-of-network bills
The Labcorp bill looked serious.
It said Don Jones owed $2,350 and that the payment was “PAST DUE.”
It layered on a threat: “Unless this office receives payment in full, escalated recovery steps will be taken.”
And then it raised the stakes: “This is a serious matter you should no longer ignore. You must act now to clear your delinquent credit status. There is no longer any justification for not resolving your account.”
But that wasn’t all: “Act immediately,” the bill said.
OK – we get the picture, Labcorp! You want Don to pay up!
The bill, and others Labcorp had sent to Don, looked so authoritative and intimidating!
But Don knew the bills were incorrect.
Don’s insurer, Anthem, had wrongly denied payment for the bloodwork he’d received from Labcorp in 2021. Don discovered the cause of the confusion. For years his telehealth doctor, who was based in Florida, had ordered bloodwork for him. But Don lived in Ohio, and had the bloodwork done at an in-network Labcorp facility near his home. He even had Good Faith Estimates that showed his cost, and he paid the balance on the spot.
Somehow Labcorp had listed the Florida doctor’s office as the billing location, which made the bills out-of-state and out-of-network, which would mean they were not covered by the insurer.
Don called and messaged Anthem and Labcorp multiple times to correct the mistakes, which occurred on more than one bill. But he wasn’t getting anywhere. No one took him seriously and the bills were piling up. “I felt stonewalled,” he said.
Then he heard my interview on the All the Hacks podcast and got ahold of my book, Never Pay the First Bill. The book and my video curriculum, The Never Pay Pathway, show how often medical bills are inaccurate and overpriced, and what you can do about it. Don isn’t alone. This is a pattern of persistent errors by the health care industry.
By this point, in early 2022, the flawed Labcorp bills totaled $3,781 from two visits for bloodwork.
In my book and videos I explain that a patient fighting a medical bill needs to get the attention of the bogus biller – and give them the incentive they need to correct the bogus bills. One of the most effective methods is to sue the billing entity in small claims court. Small claims court levels the playing field and creates accountability for the bogus billers, and it’s an inexpensive option for the patient.
Small claims court sounds intimidating, but Don emphasized that it’s there for the benefit of the public, and the courts are run by public servants who are willing to assist regular citizens. He called the court and they explained how the process worked. “They’re not afraid to help you,” he said.
But before you sue in small claims court, you need to send the bogus biller a warning letter, explaining the problem and your intent to sue. I provide a template in my book and videos that patients can adapt for their own use.
Don took my advice to heart. He adapted my template for his situation and sent it via certified mail. “In the event that my request is not accepted,” Don’s letter said, “you can expect me to proceed with my small claims filing.”
Don took another tip from the Never Pay the First Bill playbook and copied higher ups at Labcorp and Anthem. The president and CEO and chief legal officer for both Anthem and Labcorp got copies. The goal is to get the problem resolved by bringing it to the attention of decision-makers.
He sent the letter on February 28, 2022.
It worked! Labcorp and Anthem corrected the problem within a week.
“Obviously they didn’t want the headache,” Don said to me. “I’m nothing to them but about $4,000 went away just like that.”
That’s not the end of the story.
In November 2022 Don needed more routine bloodwork. Again, he went to an in-network Labcorp facility near his home in Ohio and got a Good Faith Estimate and paid his share. And yet again, Anthem mistakenly rejected the claim, for the same reason as before. This time his bill came to $2,466.
Don’s investment in fighting the system paid off. He reminded Anthem and Labcorp that they had already been through this before, and thankfully they got the problem corrected.
BOOM – that’s a total of $6,247 saved!
That’s about the same amount Don’s family of six would spend on six months’ worth of groceries!
“That’s substantial for me,” said Don. “I don’t have that kind of money.”
Look – we all wish we didn’t have to deal with bogus medical bills. But they’re afflicting the American people. We can’t ignore them or they’ll send us into debt. Let’s follow Don’s example and stand up for ourselves when we get hit with these bogus bills!
Here are the steps Don took that can be a guide for the rest of us when we need to overcome a bogus medical bill.
Document everything. Don wrote down the date and a short note each time he had a conversation to settle the bill. He said it helped him to make his case in a fair manner.
Don’t give up. You may need to take more than one route to victory. You may need to go around some roadblocks.
Consider small claims court. Even if you don’t sue, sending a warning letter that threatens a lawsuit may get the problem resolved.
Enjoy the fruit of your labor. Learning to protect your health care dollars pays repeat dividends over time.
I love how Don handled this – and how he’s being rewarded for his diligence.
“Thanks to your methods it’s made it easy for me,” Don told me about fighting the repeat bogus bills. “I’m prepared.”
I know it’s a new challenge to learn to navigate the health care system. But it pays off and the savings can mount with each health care encounter. Health care literacy is financial literacy. Learning to protect your health care dollars can save you big money!
I’m Gettin’ Social! Follow me on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and more
I am diving headlong into social media videos, where I provide 1-minute pearls of health care consumer wisdom. Check me out on the socials and please follow, subscribe, like, comment, share, etc.
Here are my handles:
TikTok — @marshallyallen
Instagram — marshallyoungallen
YouTube — @marshallallen2224
Twitter — @marshallallen
LinkedIn — www.linkedin.com/in/marshallallen
Employers and benefits advisors: the short videos make great content to share with the workers on your health plans. The YouTube links are probably the most sharable.
Thank you everyone for checking out the social content. Please let me know what you think and whether there are any questions you think I should answer!
I’m Seeking Employers Who Want to INVEST in their Workers
It’s no accident that employers and working Americans keep paying more than they should for health care. But people are not powerless. I’m looking for bold employers to invest in their employees by equipping them 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 email@example.com for more information.