Why is My Hospital Bill So High? Part Three: 5 Ways to Keep Costs Under Control

Yesterday we discussed the importance of both patients and medical staff (nurses and doctors) being cost conscientious. I forgot to mention another common myth in this area, that expensive tests = good medicine.  This has never been shown to hold, and in fact more commonly, it has been shown to be bad medicine. The best medical care is when patients and medical staff communicate effectively and test with a direction in mind as opposed to randomly.

So as promised, here are 5 simple things that can do to help keep costs down the next time you have to go to the hospital:

1. Ask your doctor if the test that is being ordered needs to be done today. A test done in the ER can be significantly more expensive than the exact same test being done in your doctor’s office or as an outpatient. Sometimes we need to know now, but in other cases these tests can be delayed without risk.

This also applies to, “Do you mind checking my ____ level today.”  Many times people get other blood tests checked while at the ER since they’re “already there”. I personally have no problem doing it for them, but I always remind them that it may be more expensive.

2. As stated above, make sure that you give your doctor the most detailed understanding of your problem. The more they know, the more specific they can be when ordering your tests if necessary at all.

3. It is also important to understand that tests are not always needed. Some people feel “cheated” if they don’t get a blood test or x-ray and forget that the doctor’s exam is itself a test. People still got better before the days of CT scans and immediate blood tests through careful attention to detail in the examination and a good back-up plan. If we want to curb our national appetite for outrageous medical expenses we need to get back to basics again.

4. In the case that your condition may involve a hospital admission, discuss with your doctor if the admission is absolutely necessary or if instead you can see your doctor first thing in the morning. If nothing essential is being monitored overnight and you’re not receiving essential medications during the night by IV, then an admission can be avoided in many cases.

5. In the case that you do get admitted to the hospital for further tests or treatment, get a hold of your hospital’s billing department as soon as possible to find out what that room charge will cover. You can sometimes save big $$$ by having a family member run home to get you a box of Kleenex, bottle of Tylenol or aspirin, etc. – all things that can be charged at an outrageous premium in many hospitals.

This also applies in the ER. When appropriate, going home to use your own medicines (prescription and over-the-counter medicines) as opposed to getting them in the ER out of convenience can save considerable amounts of money. Your doctor will be happy to tell you if it would be safe to do so or if you really need to get that medicine in the ER.

Feel free to share any of your own suggestions or experiences in this regards!

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5 Responses to Why is My Hospital Bill So High? Part Three: 5 Ways to Keep Costs Under Control

  1. Nurse K says:

    In my hospital, if a patient brings a bottle of their own medication (even Tylenol) to use while an inpatient, we have to have a pharmacist examine every pill and sign off that it is, in fact, Tylenol, and it needs to be locked up in the cupboard. Then a nurse has to obtain an order from the doctor along the lines of “may use own supply”, and the nurse has to pass the patient’s own medication anyway (there’s a charge to pass a med). It’s a huge pain in the arse.

  2. ER Doc says:

    Another good example of damned if you do and damned if you don’t … or put another way, “We’ll get that money out of you one way or another!” Honestly though, I wonder how many people disguise their Ecstasy tablets as Tylenol?

  3. Nurse K says:

    You’d be surprised…There was one dood when I worked up on the floor that we were all sure was getting addt’l narcs somehow. Turns out his friend was coming and giving him some Perkies in some OTC bottle (can’t remember–maybe ibuprofen, maybe tylenol) that was stashed in his dresser drawer. He’s the same dood that someone caught with his hand in the dirty sharps container fishing for used syringes. After the fishing incident, he was d/c’d finally. He was using the used syringes to inject himself with ground up percocet dissolved in water? Didn’t even know you could do that.

    • ER Doc says:

      What will they think of next? You sometimes wonder how they even thought it up … imagine someone saying to his friend,

      Friend1:”Hey man, wouldn’t it be cool if we like ground up some Percocet and injected directly into our veins.”

      Friend2: “Wicked man, let’s try it – ‘cept I don’t have any needles.”

      Friend1: “No prob man, I’ll just go to the ER and get some out of the sharps container.”

      Friend2: “Man, you are like such a genius … I woulda never thought of that!”

  4. TUNDE says:

    OH GUYS, THAT IS ONLY THE MILD VERSION WHAT YOU MENTIONED. IMAGINE THAT 2 GUYS WITH KNIFE ATTACKING THE ORDERLY WHO IS DISPOSING BIOHAZARD BAGS. AND GUESS WHAT ‘S IN IT….. SHARPS CONTAINERS. THAT WAS QUITE A SITE. THEY ACTUALLY PUT UP A BIG FIGHT LOL.

    DESPERATION, OR YOU MIGHT EVEN WANT TO CALL IT STUPIDITY, CAN CREATE A THOUGHT PROCESS THAT INCOMPREHENSIBLE FOR PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME.

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