A short while back, I went to visit my gynecologist due to hot flashes. During my visit, he asked me a few questions and decided to do a blood test to determine if menopause could be the answer. He ordered a common FSH (follicle stimulation hormone) test be done. The nurse drew one small vial of blood and placed the blood and paperwork in a bag for pickup by the lab. I left the office.
A few weeks later, I received a bill from the local hospital for the ordered test in the amount of $218. I felt that a little investigation might be in order due to the amount of the bill. I contacted my doctor’s office and asked if the test was done at the local hospital, or by an outside laboratory. I found that the test was done by an outside lab and got the name of the lab. I telephoned the laboratory directly and asked what had been charged for the test. The charge was $108 and was billed to the local hospital. I then telephoned my insurance company and found that there were no charges from the outside lab, but a charge for $218 from my local hospital laboratory. Interestingly enough, the local hospital laboratory can get away with placing a new sticker over top of the doctor’s sticker on the blood vial, printing out their own sheet to send to the outside lab, and slapping me with a charge of $110.
Now, just when you think you have heard the worst … the outside lab picks up specimens at the gynecologist office every day. Yes, the doctor did know that the hospital lab would charge me an extra fee. My lab specimen could have been picked up at the doctor’s office by the outside lab, saving me that extra $110. I had no idea that my doctor was in cahoots with the hospital. Partners in crime is more like it!
It actually took about twenty minutes to investigate this. That would be equal to $440 worth of my time, according to the five minutes or less it took the hospital to re-label and print a form for this specimen to be shipped out. This was a valuable lesson learned. I was very fortunate with good insurance that I only actually paid $23. But what about the people who do not have health insurance?
I realize that in true emergency circumstances it would not be practical to ask these questions. But for routine examinations, or something that is in no way an emergency, ask questions. Find out if your lab test will be done in house or shipped out and to whom. No one will volunteer this information to you. In my opinion, it is fraud for a hospital laboratory to pretend that they did the actual work. And according to their billing, that is exactly what they have done to me and the insurance company.
If you feel this is going on at any medical facility, investigate, get the facts, and then call your insurance company and report your findings. The medical facility may be up for an audit that they don’t expect. It will help the insurance company if they know exactly what an auditor needs to look for. The insurance company will keep you anonymous and thank you for your help. It is time that consumers take an active roll in uncovering the rip-offs that are hidden in the charges that we pay.