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Ask Joe: How could hospital bill jump by 230%?

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Health care costs can be a little staggering but tonight we're addressing a question from a viewer who got an estimate for a medical procedure but when the bill showed up it was an entirely different amount.

Stephanie Martin wrote in saying she went in for an MRI at Tahoe Forest Hospital and she can't figure out why the final bill was more than double the original estimate.

Here's what I found out:

Stephanie says the original estimate for $1,735.86. The final bill showing what she owed $4,000.

Stephanie says she's been going back and forth with Tahoe-Forest Hospital and she says they finally agreed to take her account out of collections but she says they told they are not going to change the amount she owes. She says the hospital suggested she set up a payment plan to pay it off.

I called tahoe forest hospital today i spoke with Jeremy Bennett, the director of revenue cycle for the hospital. He says first of all written estimates are not binding because there are so many variables when it comes to insurance costs and deductibles. Bennett says it is printed on all estimates that they are not binding.

He says there is simply no way for the hospital to be able to project costs accurately before a bill is processed by the insurance company.

Their advice to patients is know what plan you have, what your deductible is and what is covered under your plan.

Finally keep in mind there is an avenue to file a grievance if you'd like to appeal your billing or any other issue at the hospital.

So it's a frustrating situation and Bennett says he found himself in a similar situation recently after one of his children underwent a medical procedure in Reno. The costs can vary quite a bit from those original projections. I did reach out to Stephanie's insurance company and depending on what I hear back from them I will follow up next week.

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