I’m just an average guy in average health with average views about the general condition of health care in Canada and the United States. A few years ago, I personally had a lesion in my mouth found by my dentist. He send me to a dental specialist for a biopsy. The biopsy was not good news and I was sent to the ENT specialist. He set up an involved surgery that used himself and a dental surgeon to perform the surgery in collaboration. That got me to thinking about the interaction of the dentistry and ENT professions. This small blog is a way for me to write about medical care in general and dentistry. As it is such a broad subject, I am going to at least start out with the ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialty along with dental care. There is some interaction and I will explore that.
In putting up several articles on the subject, it will help me refine my current opinions. The biggest question to be answered though is where would we all be WITHOUT ENT doctors and general dentists? How would our lives suffer? It seems to me that politicians go out of their way to make it worse in about half of their decisions. Are they forcing future ENTs, dentists, and other medical professions to pursue other careers? Without sufficient numbers of dentists and ENTs our lives would be much worse.
Although not directly about the ENT or dental professions, overall hospital costs, billing, etc. come up in a lot of discussions. People typically don’t like to look too closely at their hospital bills. Those things just happen to be too complicated. But there’s something here you need to be careful of. Medical billing mistakes, if you don’t catch them, can end up ruining your credit score. There are no real studies or statistics on the kind of mistakes that get made on medical bills. A conservative estimate done by a health care advocacy group into the hospital costs we pay for finds that about 50% of all bills contain errors.
The problem is that billing errors that send up your hospital costs, even if you don’t actually worry about the money, can make it difficult for you when you apply for mortgages or loans. It happens to millions of Americans every year. How exactly does a billing error damage your credit score, you ask? It can happen for instance if your hospital uses electronic billing records, and the computer makes a mistake and bills the wrong insurance company. They’ll never pay because they won’t have any idea why the hospital is sending them a claim for a patient they don’t cover. The hospital’s computer will then get mad and send the bill for collection. And that will appear on your credit report. This kind of trouble is only set to get worse. The new health reform package sets aside billions of dollars to help convert 80% of all hospitals to electronic health record-keeping over the next four years.
Chronic health records can be a real boon if done correctly. They help hospital staff from getting in medicines that you are allergic to, and they save money by making sure there is no duplication and test done. Yet, somehow, every single day, American hospitals make hundreds of thousands of errors. They do things like charging you for visiting a doctor just because you had an appointment. And if any kind of treatment or test is recommended, they assume that it was taken or given. And then, there is the whole range of clerical errors that can occur. What do you expect – they have low-paid staff to key everything in. Hospitals happen to be completely up to their ears in paperwork for patients who receive care but are unable to pay. Collecting on unpaid debt happens to be one of the major areas that hospitals work in today.
What if you don’t know enough about these things to be able to uncover the mistakes? You go and hire a medical advocate of course. But they can be pricey. When you don’t have enough insurance, or you have a high deductible policy, hospital costs that are carelessly done can add on thousands of dollars your bill that you will end up paying out of pocket. All it takes is a simple mistake on the computer. The clerk keys in Level 5 instead of Level 1 to describe the nature of your doctor’s visit, and you are out big bucks. How would you ever know looking at your bill that Level 5 was more expensive than level one? You do need a medical advocate sometimes, for these things. Especially since the hospital rarely has time for you. And then, it isn’t uncommon to have a hospital bill you twice for the same thing, but with different kinds of names each time around.
Fighting incorrectly-calculated hospital costs is the same as challenging any kind of bill. You need to fight with determination. And sometimes, it can take months.