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The Real Deal: Dramatically Different Medical

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Published on Jun 17, 2015

YOUR DESCRIPTION HAS REACHED THE LIMIT OF CHARACTERS ALLOWED AND WAS CUT. ALBANY ‚" Most of us don't think twice when the doctor recommends a test or procedure but you could be paying hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more than you have to if you don't ask the right questions. While we can compare prices for just about anything these days, the cost of healthcare remains elusive. Even if you've got insurance, you can end up with massive medical bills.

10 months ago, Karen Kirch had a simple blood test taken at a primary care clinic run by Nathan Littauer Hospital in Cargoa Lake. A day later, the doctor called and told her everything was fine, "I never saw the test, never got any more analysis than that," she tells CBS6. A few months later, a bill for $900 arrived in the mail. Since Kirch has a high deductible insurance plan, she was on the hook for the entire amount. When she didn't get a good explanation from Nathan Littauer as to how the price was determined, she called her insurance company, "she said, if you would have gone to Lab Corp, the total would have been close to $100‚How in the world could I have not been told quickly, you can either have this sent to the hospital for testing or Lab Corp can pick it up and they'll be a huge difference in cost," she wonders.

Kirch disputed the bill three times and got no response. A spokeswoman for Nathan Littauer tells CBS6 in a statement that it did review Kirch's complaint and the bill is in accordance with her health insurance policy, "however, our communication with her was not up to our high standards and for that we apologize."

Adria Gross runs a patient advocacy company and says all too often, patients get blindsided by these type of big bills, "what I always recommend to people is that they ask the doctor before a surgery or procedure how much it's going to cost. Ask who all the providers will be in the procedure, and discuss all the fees ahead of time."

That's what Kirch has been doing since her blood test experience but she's found that it's not easy to get a straight answer, " I called three offices, asked people in their billing departments what the procedure would cost, what the basic office visit would cost, all of that. Two out of the three offices wouldn't give me anything at all, not even a ballpark," she says.

If you find you're having trouble shopping around, ask the doctor's billing office for the procedure codes and then use those to look up average rates online. Or, check the Medicare reimbursement rate, normally insurance companies pay close to that amount and the patient may be on the hook for the difference.

Full Statement from Nathan Littauer:

First, we thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We did review Ms. Kirch's complaint and the bill is in accordance with her health insurance policy. However, our communication with her was not up to our high standards and for that we apologize. We can reiterate that Nathan Littauer Hospital

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