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Whenever you receive a medical bill that is either more than you expect (which often happens) or confusing (often too), you should ask for an individual bill or a “super bill”. A Super Invoice contains the intricacies you actually need to understand what you are actually being billed for, which in turn reveals errors that you can then have removed from the invoice.

What is a super bill?

Not all medical bills are created equal, and some give you almost no information about what you are being billed for. In this case, request a detailed invoice from your medical service provider, either in writing or via their billing portal (if available). Within a few weeks you should receive a new invoice with detailed items for each service provided.

Many of these articles have codes and abbreviated descriptions that are difficult to parse, but there are ways to verify that they are legitimate fees.

This is how you can spot errors in your super bill

Before disputing a bill with your doctor, try to understand each point as best you can by doing the following:

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  • If you have health insurance, start with your EOB, or Explanation of the benefits. This will be sent to you by your insurance company after you have received the medical care and confirms which part of this medical care is covered by the insurance. It looks like a bill that you have to pay, but it isn’t.
  • At some point after the treatment, your health insurance company will pay its share of the bill, and then you will receive an actual bill from the doctor. At this point you can request an individual proof if the first invoice does not make sense. (It is possible that you will receive this invoice before your EOB, so you will have to wait for your EOB or a follow-up examination with your insurer to close the loop.)
  • Next, compare your super bill and EOB and look for discrepancies, as well as errors or obvious mark-ups for services that you haven’t used or needed. Your individual invoice contains universal HCPCS and ICD-10 codes that describe a service / product or diagnosis. If the description of the line item doesn’t make sense besides this code, Google the code for a simple description.

Common types of errors in medical bills

Typos are common. Codes are often misused or can differ by a single digit, so flag a service or diagnosis that doesn’t make sense based on the treatment you received. Double billing is also common.

Plus, you can successfully drive back exorbitant mark-ups as medical providers sometimes sneak in dubious fees for things like $ 100 aspirin or $ 10 bottles of water (you can also check databases like Fair health or Bluebook for healthcare to see what the normal fees for the service provided could be).

How to dispute a charge on a medical bill

Just call the provider, or write a letter denying the allegations. You might want to contact your insurance provider first and make sure a discrepancy isn’t on their end. Otherwise, if the provider doesn’t give in to a clear billing error, this is something you should consider legal action. If you can’t afford to pay the bill, consider your payment options, there described in this Lifehacker post.