Part 2: CBS Atlanta News reveals hospital bill secrets - CBS46 News

Investigation

Part 2: CBS Atlanta News reveals hospital bill secrets

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Insured or not, you could pay the price the next time you check into a hospital. Opening your bill after receiving treatment can be a tough pill to swallow.

High hospital bills impact all of us. Even if you have insurance, there's a good chance you're going to get socked with a hefty bill and be responsible for part of it.

Leslie Whaley was diagnosed with Lupus Nephritis, an autoimmune disease that affects her kidneys, and once a month she receives treatment at WellStar Kennestone Hospital.

"My first treatment when I received a bill tells me it was $4,549," Whaley said.

Since then, she said her bills have surpassed $8,000.

"How is it so incorrect and inconsistent since my treatment is the same every month?" Whaley asked.

Cindy Holtzman is a medical billing advocate and said it's common for hospitals to bill you incorrectly.

"Twenty-two dollars for an alcohol swab, a toothbrush for $1,004.50, pairs of gloves at $53 a pair," Holtzman said.

One of the most shocking charges found on a hospital bill is one Tylenol for $140. So how are hospitals able to get away with charging so much?

"Because we don't understand how they bill, we usually don't ask for an itemized bill and honestly all those charges are another lingo," Holtzman said.

Holtzman said, if possible, shop around for care. The federal government just released a website to help you compare prices of procedures at area hospitals.

"You've got to be a smart shopper because mistakes are going to happen," Holtzman said.

And if your bill is too high, demand a discount. Holtzman said you can lower your bill by up to 40 percent, but it only works about half of the time, so it's a good idea to follow this advice.

"You need to ask, beg, negotiate and be nice," Holtzman said.

Another way to save money is to make every effort to visit a not-for-profit hospital because if you go to a for-profit hospital, Holtzman says you can expect the cost of care to double. As for WellStar Kennestone Hospital, they're working with Whaley to address her billing concerns. If you'd like to shop around for the most affordable hospital care, click on the links below. Plus, we've provided information to the billing advocate we spoke with that can help you as well.

Extra helpful links:

Healthcare Bluebook

Medicare Provider Charge Data

Medical Refund Service

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