This Medical Bill Hack Can Reduce What You Owe the Hospital by Hundreds of Dollars

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Jan. 6 2020, Updated 11:55 a.m. ET

medical bill hack

We all know the American health care system is irretrievably broken. A couple of years ago, I was playing softball, and when I went to tag a girl out, her cleat slid into my hand. My pinky finger dislocated. I went to the emergency room, a nice doctor numbed the area, popped it back in place, wrapped it in a small metal splint, and sent me on my way. About a week later, I got a bill in the mail for $1,200. 

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I had insurance, which I was paying about $300 a month for at the time. And yet, here I was, slapped with a huge bill for a 15-minute visit to the ER. I paid it (in many installments — lucky enough to be able to do so), not knowing I potentially had another option. One woman recently tweeted about a trick she learned from TikTok of all places that drastically reduced her ER bill, and she went viral trying to make others aware of it. 

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All you have to do is call the hospital, get in touch with the billing department (one of the options in the automated message you get when you call the main number), tell them the account number on your documents, and ask for an itemized bill. 

Because the system is so broken and exploitative, the hospital will charge obscene amounts for very small things and then be so embarrassed they will just take those charges off the bill entirely instead of trying to explain why a patch of gauze costs $90. 

The original TikTok video explains it. 

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It's sad. It's bonkers. It's evil. But it's true. Hospitals don't have to charge the insane amounts of money they do for the care they provide. Healthcare is a for-profit institution in this country. It's not regulated to the extent it should be, and people die or accrue catastrophic debt because of it. 

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Hospitals and insurance companies aren't working to make people healthy. Their entire objective is to make money for themselves. If they have to crush a bunch of bank accounts and drive people insane with costs along the way, they are more than willing to do that. 

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This tweet may seem like an exaggeration, but it's not really. If a hospital can charge you for it, they will. They're counting on you not asking to see an itemized list of all the things they're charging you for. 

"Making them ask [give] an itemized bill will require someone to sit down and properly calculate all charges to your insurance and then calculate what's carried over to you," one Twitter user wrote. "Basically they allocate all the money properly this way. That's why I tell friends to do this."

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The original tweet from @the_heva went totally viral, garnering over 54,000 retweets and 277,000 likes. It also inspired people facing large hospital bills to ask for itemized bills. Sometimes it worked...

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But sometimes, it didn't. "I asked for an itemized bill....." one Twitter user wrote, "and they gave my a-- an itemized bill. LMAO. $125,000+ and 21 pages long." That's the problem, though, isn't it?

How much you pay for healthcare is entirely determined by where you are, what hospital you go to, and what kind of health insurance you have. Healthcare should be viewed in the U.S. the way it's viewed in most every other first-world nation: as a right, as a public, free service so every person, no matter their station in life, will be taken care of when they're in need of medical care. 

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