Leave it to creative docs and hospital administrators to drum up new and devious schemes to sink their fingers in your wallet.
The latest scam cropping up across the U.S. is leaving patients and their insurers aghast at outrageous medical bills. The scheme involves the use of “out-of-network” medical providers who basically can charge whatever they damn well please. They aren’t constrained by negotiated fees between in-network providers and insurers.
The scam works like this: You go in for a treatment or surgery — or maybe go to the emergency room after an accident or heart attack. You’re asked to sign the usual paperwork. Most people don’t read or understand much of the fine print that says you’re responsible for all charges — even those by out-of-network providers.
You get the treatment, get well, pay your deductible and bam! You get a bill for thousands or tens of thousands from some doctor you didn’t even know had worked on you.
That doctor might’ve been brought in by your doctor as a “consultant” to watch your operation or review your records.
The New York Times blew the cover on this scam last year. The news outlet found in-network docs who were hiring high-priced physician-consultants out of network and taking kickbacks from them. Since then, similar stories have been appearing across the country.
Legislation has been introduced in Florida to outlaw the practice and bring out-of-network fees more in line with in-network charges. The sponsors of SB516/HB681 likely have a uphill battle because the medical lobby in the state is powerful. But let’s hope the bill sponsors succeed and other states follow their lead to protect consumers from this sleazy practice.
In the meantime, be sure to carefully read all medical paperwork and question the use of out-of-network providers brought in supposedly on your behalf. It could save you a ton of money.