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Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: Asking questions about your hospital bill

Updated: Thursday, May 22 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
CINCINNATI (Howard Ain) -- Hospital costs account for about a third of all health care expenses.

But, as Local 12 Troubleshooter, Howard Ain, reports, it can be hard to decipher the charges when you get your hospital bill.  Many people have high deductible health insurance policies to keep down premiums.  That means we're responsible for a large portion of our medical bills.  But how do you know what you're really paying for? 
         
That's a question Roger Ullrich of Delhi Township asked earlier this year after he ended up in a hospital emergency room suffering from stress.

Roger Ullrich told Local 12, "I said there are no injuries, something's going on here with my nervous system.  Something stress related."
                     
Ullrich was taken to the emergency room at the closest hospital, St. Elizabeth in Edgewood.

"So I sat in the chair.  The nurse came in, I gave them a urine sample, she took a blood pressure.  She talked to me for a few minutes," he said.

Soon a doctor came in, examined him, gave him an anti-anxiety pill then sent him home.  Ullrich was very happy with the care, and quickly paid the 101 dollar doctor bill.  But the hospital bill was a different story.

"It was just a little bizarre when I got the bill for 947 dollars.  And it's even more bizarre when they can't detail it for me."

The hospital bill simply states total charges 947 dollars.  Ullrich's health insurance covers part of it, but he has to pay the rest.

"What other business or service can get away with something like this without detailing?  I asked them what 947 came from, they couldn't tell me. I said they should have been on the very lowest level of whatever service and she said that is the lowest level."
                     
But Local 12's Howard Ain checked St. Elizabeth's published list of emergency room fees and found Ullrich was not charged at the lowest level of care.  He was charged for a level of care which  would be given to a heart attack patient.  Remember, he only sat in a chair, never even laid on a bed, never had an EKG check of his heart, and feels he was was overcharged.

"You expect they treat you not only well but you expect them to treat you fairly on the billing as well. They treated me well but they treated me, I don't  think fairly," he said.

A St. Elizabeth hospital spokesman declined an on camera interview, but says the hospital is now conducting a review of the fee charged Ullrich.  This is a reminder to always ask for a detailed copy of your hospital bill, carefully review it and challenge any mistakes you find.
                    
Watch video HERE

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